GPs face huge workload challenge, warns GPC Wales

General practice in Wales faces considerable recruitment and workload challenges despite 'sanity and common sense' prevailing in the contract deal, the chairman of GPC Wales has warned.

Dr David Bailey: MPIG battle not over yet (photo: Ray Farley)
Dr David Bailey: MPIG battle not over yet (photo: Ray Farley)

In his final report to the Welsh LMCs conference before his chairmanship ends in July, Dr David Bailey said the challenge for GPC Wales over the next few years would be to ‘improve and protect’ the contract deal struck with the Welsh government in January.

He told the conference, held in Chester on 2 March, that GPs in Wales face a ‘spiralling workload’ and that recruitment to GP training is still under considerable pressure. But he said there is now less of a push to extend GP opening hours in Wales.

He said that although the Welsh government was ‘now not committed to eroding MPIG’, he suspects that it is 'an argument that we are going to have to return to’.

The conference unanimously voted through a motion which said that ‘unless measures are taken to ameliorate the position for high correction factor practices, a number of practices will become unviable’.

‘The government has made a good start in listening to our serious concerns about the proposed imposition in Westminster,’ Dr Bailey said. ‘We told them about daft questionnaires which would have irritated patients and meant GPs working for less than a minimum wage,’ he said.

The task of protecting that contract deal, he said, will to some extent ‘depend on how much an ideologically driven rush in England takes hold in Westminster towards privatisation’.

‘It will mean recognising and celebrating variation and recognising that no formula can be completely fair,’ he said. ‘It will mean investing in staff and premises and most of all in new services to support the shift of care from secondary to primary.’

Recruitment to GP training is still under considerable pressure, he said, particularly away from south Wales. ‘The funding gap between the Celtic nations and England remains at £10,000 per partner,’ he said.

Dr Bailey said that the push for extended hours in Wales seems ‘less strident’ than it had been in the past and that the local health boards ‘do seem quite clear that it will only happen via a proper commissioned DES’.

He added: ‘I think they are finally waking up to the advantages of a collaborative approach to this.’

The conference unanimously voted through a motion which said that ‘there is no desire from Welsh GPs to offer routine appointments on Saturday mornings’.

Another five motions were unanimously passed raising concerns about poor uptake in a Welsh government pilot which uses community pharmacies to deliver flu vaccinations.

Dr Bailey said the Welsh GPC was in ongoing discussions with the government on this and has written to the chief medical officer about its concerns.

He said: ‘We repeatedly warned them of possible unintended consequences such as the risk that practices would reduce orders and commitment if they were uncertain of their likely uptake. This year was apparently a pilot and in total all the community pharmacists in Wales gave less flu jabs than my practice. Clearly I can’t speak for how well the other 474 practices in Wales have done but it does raise value for money concerns.’

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