The general practice workforce in Wales must expand ‘urgently’, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in Wales has warned.
The organisation, which represents GPs in Wales, said it had been warning ‘for several years’ that the GP workforce is at ‘tipping point’.
RCGP Wales chair Dr Rebecca Payne said: ‘It is imperative that the Welsh Government takes urgent action to boost the GP workforce and expand the number of other healthcare professionals working in general practice.’
‘Workforce is increasingly stretched’
Dr Payne added: ‘The situation is not sustainable. General practice can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession but the workforce is increasingly stretched and for some GPs the pressure is becoming too much.’
However, a Welsh Government spokesperson said that since the launch of the Train Work Livecampaign, it had managed to overfill GP training places in Wales ‘for the first time’.
The spokesperson added: ‘We have also filled training places in areas that have been traditionally hard to recruit to.’
The Welsh workforce survey
RCGP Wales called on the Government to act after figures from a workforce survey published on 26 April by the Welsh Government showed that the number of GPs in Wales (excluding locums, retainers and registrars) had fallen somewhere between 83 and 26 since 2016.
As of September 2017, there were 1,926 GPs (excluding locums, retainers and registrars) in GP practices, making it the lowest figure on record since 2006-7, when there were 1,882 GPs (excluding locums, retainers and registrars).
Conversely, the number of locums working in Welsh GP practices rose by 70 (10.2%) between 2016 and 2017, according to the data.
Data quality issues
The Welsh Government said it encountered some data quality issues when compiling its report.
The report read: ‘Data quality issues mean that the fall in GP practitioners is likely to be overstated.’
However, the RCGP Wales said that ‘accounting for these still results for a decline in GPs excluding locums, retainers and registrars’.
Despite not being able to provide an exact figure for the fall in number of GPs (excluding locums, retainers and registrars), the Welsh Government decided to publish the figures as it said that ‘there is a clear need for the Welsh public to understand the number of GPs in Wales and some of their characteristics’.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said that ‘a more complete measure of GPs in Wales is to include all GP practitioners, locums, retainers and registrars’ and that this measure makes it clear that there are ‘only 8 (0.3%) fewer GPs than 2016’, counting 2,936 GPs in 2017.