It will be ‘extremely difficult’ for the Welsh Government to find any additional funding for struggling GPs, the country’s health minister has warned.
A recent BMA petition calling on the Welsh Government to commit to a rescue package for general practice has gathered more than 16,500 signatures and will be considered for a debate in the Senedd.
Eluned Morgan’s comments came as she was asked in the Senedd by Conservative MS Russell George to provide an update around funding for general practice.
Ms Morgan responded that ‘clearly’ there is a ‘real funding challenge at the moment’ and that she recognises that ‘there is a lot of pressure on the system’.
She added: ‘You’ll be aware of how serious that is. So, it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to find any additional funding for GPs, as it will be for anything in relation to health.
‘I think, just in relation to GPs, the one thing that I will say is that, actually, our approach has been very clear that what we’re trying to do is to build support around GPs.
‘The fact is that we’ve got 379 active GP practices. We’ve increased the head count by 3.8 per cent. We’ve got an increase in GP registrars. So, those are increasing in Wales, but the demand just keeps on coming, which is why what we’re trying to do is to make sure that we have alternatives for people.
‘They can go to their pharmacies, they can go to their 111 service. And they’re using them, this is what’s amazing—the 111 service is used by about 70,000 people per month. It is taking pressure away from those GP services.
‘Now, I recognise that, as somebody who is married to a GP, there is a lot of pressure in the system at the moment, but that what we do need to do is to make sure that we try and build that support, get them to work in clusters, make sure that the system is more robust.’
She also said that ‘in an ideal world’ she would want to see ‘a shift from secondary care and more money going into prevention and to primary care’.
‘I’m very, very keen to see that, but you’ve got to be a very, very brave person, when you see those ambulances outside those hospital doors, when you see waiting lists, to say, “Right, I’m going to cut secondary care”,’ she added.
Shortly after, the BMA was told that the pay offer made by the Welsh Government to GP practices could be withdrawn to ‘offset other deficits’.
And later practice managers in Wales reported that the absence of a financial agreement on the GP contract has made giving staff pay rises ‘difficult’ – triggering fears employees will leave general practice for better paid jobs in other sectors.
A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse