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No ‘rescue package’ for general practice in Wales as contract negotations fail

by Rima Evans
25 October 2023

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GP contract negotiations in Wales have ground to a halt without a resolution because ‘no credible financial offer’ has been put on the table by the Welsh Government, GP leaders have said.

Discussions have been taking place since September between BMA Cymru Wales’s GP Committee (GPC Wales), NHS Wales and the Welsh Government to try and agree an uplift to the 2023/24 GMS contract.

However, yesterday GPs were told that the negotiations have ended with no deal agreed.

An open letter from Dr Gareth Oelmann, chair of GPC Wales, explained that the offer from the Welsh Government ‘did not match our reasonable expectation of an uplift to the contract value that would help to counter the damaging impact of soaring inflation on practice costs and staffing expenses’.

He added: ‘With no credible financial offer on the table and no tangible mitigations offered, prolonging the negotiation process would be futile. Unless there are any new and significant proposals brought to the table by Welsh Government, we do not foresee any further discussions on this year’s contract.’

The letter also said: ‘We had hoped that through the contract negotiation process, we would reach a settlement that would put general practice in Wales on the right track’.

Dr Oelmann warned that with no ‘rescue package for general practice’ surgeries and patients will suffer.

‘Our Save our Surgeries campaign lays bare the impact of long-term underinvestment in general practice and its consequent impacts upon workload, workforce and wellbeing. Despite the remarkable efforts of hardworking GPs in Wales, 80% fear they are unable to provide quality and safe care to patients due to their excessive workloads, diminishing workforce, and the rising demands on the service.’

He separately added that there have been 84 surgery closures in the last decade, which translates as 18% fewer surgeries available to patients and GPs taking on 32% more patients each.

‘General practice does not have sufficient funds for workforce, premises or services to meet the growing needs of patients. This is already undermining patient safety, and we are clear, without investment from Welsh Government, the future of the service is at real risk of collapse.’

Although GPC Wales has urged the Government to return to the negotiating table with a ‘credible offer’ it has also requested that surgeries use their collective strength to take action ‘to escalate pressure on the Welsh Government’.

The letter suggests that practices write to Members of the Senedd (MS) and invite them for a visit, so they can witness for themselves the pressures general practice teams face.

‘BMA staff will provide any assistance you need to facilitate your visit, including briefings on your MSs, hard copies of the Save Our Surgeries report, a guide to hosting a visit or in-person attendance during the visit,’ the GPC Wales letter pledged.

Other support provided by the BMA Cymru Wales for practices includes:

Dr Oelmann’s letter concluded: ‘This has not been an easy process. GPC Wales remains firm in our commitment to fight for the profession and we will continue to push for better for ourselves and our patients.’