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Quarter of Welsh GPs approaching retirement age, CMO finds

Almost a quarter of Wales’ 2,000-plus GPs are aged 55 or over, which is presenting a ‘particular challenge’ for primary care in the future, the chief medical officer for Wales has found.

In her annual report, Dr Ruth Hussey found that the percentage of GPs nearing retirement age has risen by five percentage points over the past 10 years.

It found there were ‘increasing reports of vacancies in practice and poor response to recruitment activities’ in primary care, concluding that new models of care that support prevention, self-care and planned management of patients with chronic diseases would be needed in the future.

It suggested this might include: ‘Units significantly larger than the traditional GP practices offering a range of health and other services including diagnostics, chronic conditions management and social care.’

Dr Hussey also called for a ‘relentless focus’ on improving diet and exercise, including a possible ban on junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed and on internet ‘on demand’ services, to tackle the inexorable rise of lifestyle-related chronic disease.

Smoking rates in Wales fell last year, to 21% of adults from 22% the previous year, but across other lifestyle indicators the picture was less rosy.

Among adults, 42% drank more than recommended guidelines, 67% ate fewer than five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, 34% were not physically active any day of the week, and 58% of the adult population were considered overweight or obese.

Dr Hussey said: ‘We need to focus relentlessly on prevention, quality of health care and to bring closer together our efforts to reduce poor health and poverty.’