GP contract negotiations between the BMA’s GP Committee for Wales, the Welsh Government and NHS Wales have ended without resolution.
The BMA warned that unless there are any ‘new and significant’ proposals brought to the table by the Welsh Government, the GPC does not foresee any further discussions on this year’s contract.
GMS contract negotiations for 2023/24 were due to begin at the end of July, but the BMA said that immediately prior to the proposed start of negotiations, the GPC was informed of ‘budget uncertainties’ that apply across all directorates of the Welsh Government and this led to the postponement of negotiations until September.
GPC Wales chair Dr Gareth Oelmann wrote a letter to GPs across Wales explaining that ‘no credible financial offer’ was put on the table and ‘no tangible mitigations’ were offered during the negotiations.
He said: ‘The financial settlement on offer from Welsh Government did not match our reasonable expectation of an uplift to the contract value that would help to counter the damaging impact of soaring inflation on practice costs and staffing expenses.
‘With no credible financial offer on the table and no tangible mitigations offered, prolonging the negotiation process would be futile.
‘Unless there are any new and significant proposals brought to the table by Welsh Government, we do not foresee any further discussions on this year’s contract.
‘We entered into negotiations in good faith, giving Welsh Government the opportunity to address these longstanding issues.
‘We had hoped that through the contract negotiation process, we would reach a settlement that would put general practice in Wales on the right track.’
He said that it will be ‘particularly galling to the profession’ across Wales that there is ‘nothing resembling a rescue package’ for general practice on the table.
The letter added: ‘We have been absolutely clear that practices and patients will suffer because of it. We have urged the Welsh Government to reconsider and come back to the negotiating table with a credible offer that provides security and sustainability for practices and patients alike.’
The letter ended offering support to GP practices during the ‘crisis’ with guidance on how to prioritise safe patient care and steps to take before closing a surgery and handing back a contract to a health board.
Minister for health and social services Eluned Morgan said: ‘I understand the strength of feeling among GPs about the need for a pay offer that reflects the pressures they are under and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
‘Our offer, was made as part of the annual contract negotiations which includes efforts to modernise services and is all we can afford as a result of tight budgets brought about by economic mismanagement by the UK Government and high levels of inflation.
‘Without additional funding from UK Government, we are not in a position to currently increase that offer.
‘We will continue to press them to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.
‘We remain committed to working with unions and we are available for further talks with the GPC Wales at any stage.’
Commenting on the announcement, Dr Oelmann said: ‘Unless the Welsh Government can commit to a rescue package that begins to support GPs and their patients with the correct level of support then I’m afraid the GP crisis will only deepen in Wales.
‘The unsustainable pressure facing GPs is felt up and down the country. We have heard from GPs who have been unable to recruit permanent staff for years on end, examples of extreme burnout causing hospitalisation and a rising number of surgeries having to close their doors as they struggle with bills and staffing expenses, leaving thousands of patients having to be treated elsewhere.’
Earlier this month, a new report commissioned by the Welsh Government predicted a ‘persistent shortfall’ of full-time equivalent GPs in the next 10 years, with one in two GP roles potentially vacant by 2031.