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Friday, 11 September 2009

The WAG could be storing up a whole heap of problems over a lack of GPs

It seems as if nothing has changed yet then in terms of the future of the GP workforce in Wales, or if it has, it’s only a change for the worse. The latest round of “Workforce Statistics for General Practitioners in Wales, 1998 – 2008” just serve to highlight how much of a ticking time bomb Wales is sitting on when it comes to having enough GPs to serve the population. Put simply, the figures show how those GPs coming up to retirement age aren’t being replaced by younger doctors. I blogged on this particular issue earlier this year and so these stats just back up everything I said then.

There are several reasons as to why Wales may soon be facing a GP shortage, a key one being demographics, with lots of older, single-handed GPs coming up to retirement age in the valleys. Also in Wales, GP incomes are lower than their counterparts in England, but with a higher workload than England. There may also be less opportunity for surgery partnerships in Wales. Then of course, there has been the trend over recent years (and rightly so) for an increased emphasis on work/life balance, making it easier for more GPs to work part-time.

And just as there is no one reason, there probably isn’t one easy solution to what could be a very serious issue in the coming years. The reorganisation of the Welsh NHS is due to really come into effect over the next few weeks, which sees a greater emphasis on the role of GPs and primary care, so it really is about time that the Government here starts taking the recruitment and planning of the Welsh GP workforce seriously. Otherwise, as the old classic song goes "There may be trouble ahead..."

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