GP numbers in Wales have declined by 1% in the past year, official Government statistics have revealed.
The statistics showed that there was 2,006 GPs on 30 September 2014, 20 fewer than on the same date in 2013.
But Welsh GP leaders said that the headcount drop did not reflect the full scale of reduction in clinical provision.
Workforce statistics for the UK as a whole revealed last week that the number of full-time equivalent GPs increased by 1.7% between 2013 and 2014, but the number of GPs per 100,000 patients declined from 67.8 to 66.5.
The Welsh Government statistics showed that:
- The number of GP practitioners in Wales (excluding registrars, retainers and locums) was 2,006 at 30 September 2014, 20 fewer (1.0 per cent) than the previous year and an increase of 190 (10.5 per cent) since 2004.
- There are fewer practices in Wales than a decade ago. In 2014 there were 7.8 per cent fewer GP partnerships in Wales than in 2004. The number of patients per practitioner has fallen by 5.5 per cent since 2004 but patients per practice have consequently risen.
- The percentage of female GP practitioners has increased over the last decade. In 2014 female GP practitioners accounted for nearly half (48.6 per cent) of the GP Practitioner workforce, an increase of 378 (63.3 per cent) since 2004. Females accounted for only 32.9 per cent of the total in 2004.
- The number of GP practitioners aged 55 or over has remained steady in the last five years, with around 23.0 per cent of the GP practitioner workforce falling into this age band in 2014.
Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the Welsh GPC, said just looking at headcount led to ‘erroneous assumptions’, adding that ‘in reality a further reduction in clinical provision to patients as more GPs opt for less than full time working due to complexity and sheer demand leaves them exhausted’.
She said: ‘We have been warning of this for years and despite offering up many solutions over many years, there has been little, if any, movement on addressing this issue and now sadly we are seeing the effects of this coming rapidly which will inevitably negatively impact on primary care services for patients to access.
‘We continue to engage with all interested parties in this because if the NHS in Wales does not have an adequate GP workforce it will be the biggest disaster it has had given the volume of work, risk management and contribution to the prudent healthcare agenda we deliver despite many years of under resourcing.’