A new report commissioned by the Welsh Government has predicted a ‘persistent shortfall’ of full-time equivalent GPs in the next 10 years, with one in two GP roles potentially vacant by 2031.
The paper looked at what the NHS will look like in 10 years and beyond, and predicted that within the next 15 years almost 20% of the population will be 70 and over, with 22% more people expected to have diabetes, and the number of people with four or more long-term conditions could double.
GP costs per frailty category are also projected to increase significantly by 2047 and that while an overall workforce supply gap already exists for GPs, this is likely to increase until 2024/25 before declining gradually by 2030/31, demonstrating a persistent shortfall of FTE GPs and general practice nurses.
The report said: ‘In all scenarios, the projections report a persistent shortfall of FTE GPs and general practice nurses.
‘In the pessimistic case, the GP supply-demand gap grows to around 18,900 FTE by 2030/31 – nearly 1 in 2 GP posts (48%) based on projected demand. This equates to 1,000 in Wales.’
Dr Gareth Oelmann, chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee, said the report was ‘a stark warning’ which reflects the BMA’s ongoing concerns around the sustainability of the NHS.
He told Pulse: ‘It highlights many of the issues raised by BMA Cymru Wales in our recently launched Save Our Surgeries Campaign. The report demonstrates that there is a persistent shortfall of full-time equivalent GPs.
‘We have campaigned for many years for an effective workforce strategy and an increase to NHS spending by an appropriate amount each year to keep up with the demand for services.
‘In addition to having the right staff in place at the right time, it is vital that we ensure all staff are appropriately paid for the contribution they make so we retain them.’
Dr Oelmann also said that the current inadequate capacity in the face of ‘unrelenting demand’ is a product of ‘longstanding workload, workforce and wellbeing issues, which correlate to the chronic underfunding of general medical services’.
He added: ‘Over the last ten years, investment in general practice in Wales has dropped significantly as a share of total NHS spending.
‘The health issues we face as a nation are complex and require investment to build a more resilient Wales for the future.
‘Prevention is crucial to the long-term health of our nation; however, we need funding and support within our primary and secondary care health systems to achieve this otherwise patient safety is being put at risk.’
In June, the BMA warned the Welsh Government is overspending money on health board-managed practices while eight in 10 GPs cannot provide safe care.