Listen to Jon Skone’s Interview and think why all these good words will not result in action. The pressure from Emergency Hospital Services is always going to trump Primary Care and prevention and early diagnosis.
Mark Drakeford said he was concerned that the use of the word ‘crisis’ would put people off working in Wales
“Describing the challenges facing the recruitment of GPs in parts of Wales as a “crisis” could compound the problem further, Health Minister Mark Drakeford has warned.
Prof Drakeford said he acknowledged that work was needed in addressing a number of issues in attracting people to the profession but that he believed using the word “crisis” would have an adverse effect.
His comments follow the Welsh Conference of Local Medical Committees, which took place over the weekend, where representatives of the profession raised major concerns about problems recruiting and retaining GPs in Wales.
Prof Drakeford told the Western Mail: “I think we have got to be very careful in reaching for the ‘crisis’ word, it’s over-used. It loses its impact if we use it all the time. If we’re not careful it becomes part of the problem in itself.
“We want to be able to attract people to work in GP practices in Wales, and if we over-use the term ‘crisis’ we put people off coming – we make it less attractive for them to come. We need to think carefully about the way we use language and it was a small and semantic part of the [conference’s] discussion but I think it does have something important to it as well.
“My position is that there are parts of Wales where we face some real challenges in the recruitment of GPs. The big picture is that we have more GPs working in Wales than ever before and, for the most part, we are able to successfully recruit very talented and very committed people to work in primary care in Wales.
“There are things we can do to make the job even more attractive. We had a very successful negotiation with GPC (GP Committee) Wales in terms of next year’s contract to be able to respond to the series of concerns that had been raised with us with the bureaucratic nature of the ways GPs are paid. We have gone further than any part of the UK in reducing the bureaucratic burden on GPs and moving in a direction to put greater weight on the professional judgement and the trust between the patient and GP.”
Prof Drakeford said the issue of GP retirement was not just a Welsh problem but acknowledged work was needed to get more trainees into certain areas of Wales.
He said: “Just to be factual about the retirement position – the percentage of GPs in Wales coming up to retirement is identical to the position in England and Northern Ireland. We have 23.4% of GPs aged 55 and over and in England it is 22.5% and in Northern Ireland it is 24.4%. This is not a Welsh problem of having a cohort of people that are coming to retirement.
“Part of what we want to do is extend the working lives of GPs by allowing them to make different contributions – part-time contribution or working in areas of special interest rather than doing the full range of things. Of course we need to bring new people into the profession and we are working with the Deanery and with GPC to make sure we can maximise the number of GP training posts we have.
“Some of the problems of recruitment that we face in parts of rural North West Wales is that there are not enough training practices. Getting training places in rural Wales is very important as we think people are more likely to stay……
“Primary care workforce planning has been in the ‘too difficult’ or ‘low priority’ box for far too long. We are now seeing the impact of this and none of us want to see our warnings of too little too late come true.
“We have to have a workforce that is fit for the future and recognises the needs of the population and the wants of the professionals. The two can marry up but requires innovative thinking and progression of solutions to attract and retain GPs in Wales.”
Speaking to the Western Mail prior to the conference, Dr Jones said that action needed to be taken immediately.
She said: “At the moment we know we are not training enough GPs just to stand still. We are in the recruitment crisis now.
“It would be seriously naive to think somebody else can do all the jobs that GPs currently do. We need to urgently look at solutions to retain the workforce that we have got.”