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£3.5m primary care boost needed for recruitment crisis, says GPC

The GPC has called on the Government to clarify how millions of pounds promised to primary care services in Wales will be allocated.

The Welsh Government announced in July that £3.5m is to be invested in primary care services in 2014-15, to ‘improve health and reduce inequalities’ in Wales’ most deprived communities.

Health and social services minister Mark Drakeford said that tackling poverty and reducing inequalities were ‘key priorities’ for the Welsh Government. He said: ‘This new funding will help realise our ambition to create a strong, highly-trained primary care workforce, which can deliver a wide-range of services in local communities, reducing our dependence on hospital-based care.’

But Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of GPC Wales, said that she was concerned that the money would not have enough of an effect, as it is currently unclear how or if Welsh GPs – who are among the hardest hit by the national recruitment crisis – will benefit from the investment. Pulse reported in June that Wales has been among the areas worst affected by problems with the recruitment and retention of GPs, with four practices due to close imminently and a further 10 threatened with closure.

Dr Jones said: ‘While we welcome the money coming into primary care, we are waiting for further details on how it will be utilised. We have some concerns, as it hasn’t specifically been said that the money will be targeted at the problems of GP recruitment and retention.’

The Welsh Government have so far stated that the £3.5m will be used to train a ‘multidisciplinary primary care workforce’ comprising advanced nurses, therapists and clinical pharmacists. This, it says, will help to make ‘more effective use of GPs’ time and expertise’.

Some of the money will also be used to provide local follow-up eye care appointments and in a scheme across two health boards to prevent premature death from cardiovascular disease.  

However Dr Jones added that, while the latest investment measures promised by the Government were welcome, they were likely to take ‘some time’ to implement. She said: ‘We are interested to hear if there are going to be any extra proposals to solve the problems we are experiencing now.

‘It is not clear how the extra money is going to address the problems we are facing and make a difference to GPs and their teams on the ground.’

This comes as Pulse launches a campaign to Stop Practice Closures in response to an unprecedented number of GP leaders citing recruitment issues – as well as cuts to MPIG and PMS funding – as one of the main factors for upwards of 100 practices closing or potentially closing.

The Welsh Government told Pulse last month it is working with the RCGP, the Wales Deanery, GPC Wales and health boards to develop new training and recruitment schemes for GPs, considering different contractor models, and looking at how the skills of the whole primary care team could be better used ‘including practices working together locally to help meet the needs of their populations.