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Minister attacks talk of GP recruitment crisis as ’damagingly wrong’

LMC leaders were repriminded by a health minister over the weekend for having a ‘crisis mentality’ as they passed motions that called for a review of workforce planning in Wales.

Health minister Professor Mark Drakeford rejected the idea that the profession was in ‘crisis’, saying that LMC leaders in Wales were ‘talking us into a crisis mentality’ that was ’damagingly wrong’.

Professor Drakeford, speaking at the Welsh LMCs Conference in Newport this weekend, said there were practical changes in development to make general practice in Wales, and rural Wales in particular, an ‘attractive proposition’.

But he added: We won’t do that, I believe, if we constantly talk up the erroneous idea that there is a recruitment crisis. There isn’t, and it really doesn’t help to attract people to Wales if our slogan is, come and work in Wales isn’t it awful.’

‘What we have, are some real hotspots, real hotspots in terms of particular disciplines and hotspots in terms of particular geographies. Those are things we have to address very seriously.’

But proposing a later motion – that was passed unanimously – that demanded ‘that workforce morale amongst GPs is urgently reviewed and solutions debated and acted upon’, Dr Phil White, secretary of North Wales LMC said: ‘Despite what the minister says there is a crisis. It’s been gradually building up, we have manpower committees in Cardiff manned by very eminent people who are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

He added that: Short term, nobody seems to be coming up with the goods and now we need it. It’s not fifteen year’s time, the problem’s we’ve got in Pen Llyn are of vacant practices, not just short of doctors. They’re vacant.

‘We’ve now got a vacant practice in Wrexham it’s extending into our more urban areas. It’s a problem that needs tackling here and now with short term solutions, either funding golden handcuffs or handshakes, whatever short term solutions are needed now.’

A subsequent motion – also passed unanimously – called on the Welsh Government to ‘investigate and debate publicly current and predicted recruitment retention problems in general practice.’ It also called for ‘both long term and immediate short term plans to address the workforce crisis’.

An earlier motion – also passed unanimously – welcomed recent workforce evaluations by the RCGP and Bevan committee, and called upon  ‘the Welsh Government to respond by increasing the share of the Welsh NHS budgets spend in primary care.’

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones told Pulse she would help the Welsh Government to deliver on plans to give more prudent health care, but added: ‘We need a workforce that can deliver it, and whatever the minister says there is a very real problem here and now within the workforce for general practice.

‘We are hearing of vacancies across Wales, and you’ve got to remember they may not be as highly publicised as something in a hospital, because GPs will just carry on working harder and harder to meet the needs of their population.

‘Because they will not let their patients suffer, even if they’re a GP down, or more than one GP in a lot of practices.’

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash from the GPC negotiating committee also rejected the minister’s stance and told Pulse: ‘I think there is a crisis. You can quote me on that.’

GP leaders from across the UK are calling for action to tackle the workforce crisis, the chair of the RCGP, Dr Maureen Baker, said the proportion of GPs in the NHS could fall to just 16% by 2022 unless the ‘dramatic diversion’ away from the profession was arrested.