Number of GPs in Wales hits lowest level in a decade

As the number retiring exceeds the number being appointed, the crisi deepens in General Practice. Never has such irresponsible manpower planning led to such a deficit in service. The RCGP rightly says says the situation is ‘unsustainable’. (Mark Smith in Western Mail and Mailonline 28th April 2018) It is ironic that we are talking in West Wales about a new Hospital, because the present 4 do a less than satisfactory job, and investing in Hospitals which already, along with administration take 93% of the health budget. General practice takes 7%. In the 1960s any minister of health when asked what he would like from the then NHS would have said General Practice. And yet, through rationing, denial and poor manpower planning we have virtually destroyed the health services most valuable asset. It is primary care sorting that makes the health services efficient (or not). With too few GPs to man out of hours, with overworked and overstressed doctors, there are too many patients missing out on seeing a GP. NHS111 is a laugh as it creates more work and not less. There is a skill with managing health risks, living with uncertainty appropriately, and giving confidence to patients. This is what is not going, as more patients will see paramedics first. The result will be safety first: over-investigation, over-referral and inefficiency.

The number of GPs working in Wales is at its lowest level in a decade and if the trend continues the service will become unsustainable.

That is according to new data from the Royal College of GPs which claims the workforce needs a major boost to prevent the service from reaching “tipping point”.

In 2017-18, there were 1,926 GPs employed in Wales, excluding locums, retainers and registrars.

That was 100 less than the peak in 2013-14 of 2,026 – and is the lowest since 1,882 in 2006-7.

Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the number fell from 2,009 to 1,926, a drop of 83 GPs or 4.1%.

In response, the Welsh Government said a more “complete measure” of GP numbers would include locums, retainers and registrars.

RCGP Wales claims the fall in the number of GPs comes at a time when demand for general practice continues to rise as a result of a growing population.


organisation says general practice services are now coming under major strain and this is having an impact on GPs’ ability to deliver the quality of care that patients need and deserve.

Dr Rebecca Payne, RCGP chairwoman for Wales, said: “The news that workforce numbers have fallen is very disappointing for GPs and for patients.

“Workforce shortages are already being felt across Wales, there are fewer GPs to cope with rising demand and patients are having to wait longer to see their GP.

“The situation is not sustainable. General practice can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession but the workforce is increasingly stretched for some GPs the pressure is becoming too much.

“It is imperative that the Welsh Government takes urgent action to boost the GP workforce and expand the number of other healthcare professionals working in general practice.”


w Health Secretary Angela Burns said that GPs had been warning of a recruitment crisis for years.

She said: “The Welsh Labour Government’s failure to heed warnings from organisations like the BMA has led to a serious crisis in GP recruitment and retention.

“Not only are they working under considerable pressure, they have also been burdened with the increasing cost of medical insurance. GPs have been warning of a crisis for years, and the issue of reforming their contracts continues to cast a long shadow over the profession.

“These new figures further emphasise the need for systemic, long-term planning of the Welsh NHS, including action to improve recruitment and retention initiatives for frontline staff.

“The Health Secretary continues to champion the ‘Train. Work. Live’ campaign, but it’s fast becoming clear that his department is not only failing to recruit more GPs – it’s failing to support those already working here in Wales.”

Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth says the latest data is further evidence of Welsh Labour’s “incompetence” over doctor training and recruitment.

He claims the figures were a reminder of the need for a far more concerted effort to train doctors, including new home-grown doctors.

“Yet again we have a reminder that Labour’s failure to take doctor recruitment seriously is creating a crisis that if not addressed will jeopardise health service delivery in many parts of Wales,” he said. “These GP shortages have been predicted for years, with the numbers approaching retirement being highlighted every year, and the stress levels that cause burnout constantly highlighted. This year’s decline could just be the start of a wider fall – it’s already showing we have fewer GPs than 10 years ago.

“The Welsh Government, on their website, are claiming that many of those who have left have become locums – as if that means we shouldn’t worry about this fall in GPs. The complacency expressed about this is breathtaking. Locums are more expensive than permanent staff, and are likely to be working fewer hours.

“It’s also going to make it difficult for people to see their GP when they need to, which creates pressure on A&E and partly explains why we’ve seen the worst performance this winter.

“With Brexit, burnout and retirements putting our health workforce at risk, it’s quite clear we need a plan to train and recruit home grown doctors.

“Such a plan must include increasing training places

nd the development of Medical Training at Bangor, an initiative which Plaid Cymru is driving, which we secured money for through Budget negotiation, but to which the Labour government is being far too resistant.”


This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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