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Minister attacks talk of GP recruitment crisis as ’damagingly wrong'

LMC leaders were repriminded by a health minister over the weekend for having a ‘crisis mentality’ as they passed motions that called for a review of workforce planning in Wales.

Health minister Professor Mark Drakeford rejected the idea that the profession was in ‘crisis’, saying that LMC leaders in Wales were ‘talking us into a crisis mentality’ that was ’damagingly wrong’.

Professor Drakeford, speaking at the Welsh LMCs Conference in Newport this weekend, said there were practical changes in development to make general practice in Wales, and rural Wales in particular, an ‘attractive proposition’.

But he added: We won’t do that, I believe, if we constantly talk up the erroneous idea that there is a recruitment crisis. There isn’t, and it really doesn’t help to attract people to Wales if our slogan is, come and work in Wales isn’t it awful.’

‘What we have, are some real hotspots, real hotspots in terms of particular disciplines and hotspots in terms of particular geographies. Those are things we have to address very seriously.’

But proposing a later motion - that was passed unanimously - that demanded ‘that workforce morale amongst GPs is urgently reviewed and solutions debated and acted upon’, Dr Phil White, secretary of North Wales LMC said: ‘Despite what the minister says there is a crisis. It’s been gradually building up, we have manpower committees in Cardiff manned by very eminent people who are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

He added that: Short term, nobody seems to be coming up with the goods and now we need it. It’s not fifteen year’s time, the problem’s we’ve got in Pen Llyn are of vacant practices, not just short of doctors. They’re vacant.

‘We’ve now got a vacant practice in Wrexham it’s extending into our more urban areas. It’s a problem that needs tackling here and now with short term solutions, either funding golden handcuffs or handshakes, whatever short term solutions are needed now.’

A subsequent motion - also passed unanimously - called on the Welsh Government to ‘investigate and debate publicly current and predicted recruitment retention problems in general practice.’ It also called for ‘both long term and immediate short term plans to address the workforce crisis’.

An earlier motion – also passed unanimously - welcomed recent workforce evaluations by the RCGP and Bevan committee, and called upon  ‘the Welsh Government to respond by increasing the share of the Welsh NHS budgets spend in primary care.’

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones told Pulse she would help the Welsh Government to deliver on plans to give more prudent health care, but added: ‘We need a workforce that can deliver it, and whatever the minister says there is a very real problem here and now within the workforce for general practice.

‘We are hearing of vacancies across Wales, and you’ve got to remember they may not be as highly publicised as something in a hospital, because GPs will just carry on working harder and harder to meet the needs of their population.

‘Because they will not let their patients suffer, even if they’re a GP down, or more than one GP in a lot of practices.’

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash from the GPC negotiating committee also rejected the minister’s stance and told Pulse: ‘I think there is a crisis. You can quote me on that.’

GP leaders from across the UK are calling for action to tackle the workforce crisis, the chair of the RCGP, Dr Maureen Baker, said the proportion of GPs in the NHS could fall to just 16% by 2022 unless the ‘dramatic diversion’ away from the profession was arrested.

Readers' comments (14)

  • I've figured it out finally! How to sort out GP workforce crisis? Answer: Say there isn't one and criticise anyone who disagrees with you. Done, ladies and gentlemen we no longer have a workforce crisis. What a load of nonsense.

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  • The Welsh conference should have debated an emergency motion of No Confidence in the Minister rather than politely absorb all his propaganda.

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  • this minister is either
    a )totally incompetent
    b)a fool
    or c) a liar..ie a typical hopeless failure of a leader
    may he be sacked and hopefully expelled as a politician at the next election.
    talk about astounding nonsense.

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  • the crisis is here and will get worse - a lot of gps have announced in posts here they are going to retire asap, a lot of gps have gone abroad, many drs are looking to change careers, and many more (like myself) have given up responsibility and are doing locums. I would rather change career or become a private gp than be a partner or salaried doc - that's how bad things are. moral is the lowest i've ever seen it and i can't see it getting better as demand is increasing with supply being stretched. i can only see things getting worse.

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  • Jounalistic tradition (or cliché) would be to print a picture of the minister under the headline "Crisis? What crisis?". This can then used at every opportunity in the future. It can define a ministerial career.

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  • I agree there is no crisis.infact there is crisis of good jobs , there are plenty of newly qualified Gp who are looking for proper jobs, most of jobs are not well paid/work load unsustainable / no security /no national agreed contract(like in hospital ). Most of Gp changing jobs frequently in last endup in doing locums . There should be nationally agreed contract which should be followed up by every practice , which protect the rights of salaried Gp (like in secondary care all hospitals have set contract) this will help both to employee and employer

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  • It comes to something when you can't get a locum for love nor money to go on a training course where the health board has actually agreed to fund said locum :-( Have wanted to go on 2 such days this year but can't get away from my single handed practice in North Wales; all the locums seem to be working covering empty practices.

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  • @ Anonymous 17 Feb 10:46pm
    Why have you said 'either', it would seem likely he could be a, b and c - it seems they are all in the job description for Health Ministers these days!

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  • Anonymous | 18 February 2014 10:20am

    The reality is there is not enough funding to allow for good jobs, most partners are struggling. new partner have to take a huge risk in an environment where the profession is under attack.

    W have tried to recruit a partner but have had no interest, tried then to get a full time salaried - again no interest when it came to actually joining. I don't blame them, we can't offer great pay. there are practices that will survive through this but too many will not

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  • Anon 10:20,

    I'm not sure if you are a troll or just misguided. As poster above has pointed out, many newly qualified (and some experienced) GPs seems to think they should earn a lot more for doing less. This has resulted in difficulty with recruiting.

    I've done a calculation a few weeks back on how much we are earning per hour, adjusting the employer's pension to equate the pay condition. On this

    I earn £36/hour pre-tax/pre-indemnity/pre-locum insurance (and my surgery earns slightly above average)
    Salaried GP on average nationally earns £40/hour
    Locums £70-90/hour

    So if you are expecting a big pay rise to become a partner, you won't find a "good job" unless you work with people like Clare Geralda who has a big coporate and many salaried GPs working under her.

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