GP mass exodus warning as Welsh Tories consider extended access

GP leaders in Wales have warned of a 'mass exodus' from the profession after Welsh Conservatives suggested they could introduce evening and weekend appointments if they took control of the devolved government.

Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew Davies (Photo: Welsh Conservatives)

After surveying 3,000 service users, 60% of whom said NHS performance had declined over the past five years, the party said it would draw up measures to ‘broaden access to GP appointments during evenings and weekends’.

GPC Wales chairwoman Dr Charlotte Jones said such a plan would be ‘impossible to deliver’ without addressing ‘significant recruitment and retention issues within Wales’.

‘Our overstretched, demoralised workforce is struggling to cope with the current workload. Any stretching of the working day into evenings would lead to a mass exodus of GPs and also likely reduce access in the daytime.’

Directly elected health leaders

Leader of the Welsh Tories, Andrew RT Davies AM, announced his party would introduce directly elected health commissioners to replace the seven local health boards which currently commission services.

Elected commissioners, said Mr Davies, would ‘usher in a new era of openness and transparency – a culture change absolutely necessary to ensure that fundamental issues within the governance of the Welsh NHS are addressed’.

Commissioners would ‘replace the system of patronage where the Welsh government is free to appoint key decision-makers onto local health boards’, the party said.

But the plans could lead to ‘political interference’ in services, warned Dr Jones, and would likely result in ‘disjointed localistic strategies rather than sensible long-term planning’.

The policy, she added, amounted to another reorganisation which would work against the GP cluster networks and locality working currently being developed to ensure sustainable services.

The Conservatives’ survey found 71% of respondents backed the party’s call for an independent inquiry into the running of the Welsh NHS.

Dr Jones said problems in service were caused by lack of funding allocated through the Barnett formula, which sets Welsh government funding as a proportion of UK spending. Problems of relative investment, she said, were the fault of the Labour-run Welsh government, but overall investment was the responsibility of the Conservative-led UK government.

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