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Wales is on the verge of an unprecedented GP recruitment and retention crisis with the majority of doctors in many areas intending to quit in the next decade.

Research by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales has found 60 per cent of GPs in 10 local health board areas intend to retire or leave practice in the next 10 years.

In Blaenau Gwent, every GP said they planned to retire in the next five years. In Monmouthshire, Powys, Bridgend and Torfaen the figure was 40 per cent.

The report, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government, said excessive workload, stress and lack of work-life balance were driving GPs to quit. The proposed increase in the retirement age to 65 from 2013 was also pushing GPs to retire earlier.

Urgent action, including a package of new financial incentives, cuts in administrative workload and more protected learning time, was needed to encourage GPs to stay, it said.

The research also highlighted major problems in recruiting GPs. Areas with the most long-term vacancies were found to have the largest list sizes, deprivation and most singlehanded GPs.

Younger GPs were put off working in these areas because of the extra pressure.

The golden hello scheme, which ended on April 1, had failed, the CMO said, and a new system involving bigger financial incentives of up to £20,000 was needed.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of GPC Wales, said improving infrastructure was key to recruiting and retaining GPs. 'What we need is flexible training, flexible careers, an improved or extended retainer scheme and premises,' he said.

'There's no point recruiting GPs if there are no premises for them to work in.'

Dr Dearden added that LHBs were failing to implement strategies to keep GPs.

Trevor Neatherway, head of primary care at Blaenau Gwent LHB, said of the 42 GPs in the area, only six were under 40 while 23 were over 50. 'We've got the basic problem where too many people are chasing too few GPs,' he said.

What GPs in Wales said

Top three factors influencing retirement:

Financial issues, including pay and incentives

Workload and work-life balance

Pension changes

Top incentives to deter retirement:

Reduction in administrative tasks

Increased pay and seniority

Additional educational support

Non-working GPs' top three reasons for not practising:

Dissatisfaction with the state of general practice

Working in another branch of medicine

Pregnancy or young children

By Jacqueline Head

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