Pay blamed as empty GP posts in Wales quadruple

Vacant GP posts in Wales have quadrupled over the past year, figures from the NHS Information Centre have revealed.

The figures show that while vacancies in England's NHS as a whole have risen for the first time in years, the long-term vacancy rate - vacancies unfilled for three months or more - among English GPs has remained stable at around 0.3 per cent.

In Wales, however, the long-term vacancy rate has risen from 0.2 per cent to 0.9 per cent. The full GP vacancy rate in Wales - which includes posts empty for less than three months - climbed from 0.6 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

Dr David Bailey, chairman of GPC Wales, said the rise was partly caused by an unusually high number of GPs reaching retirement age.

But he added that the main cause was likely to be the 'widening funding gap'. GPs in Wales earn on average around £10,000 less than their English colleagues, and earnings figures for 2006/7 show profits dropping faster in Wales than across the border.

'If Welsh GPs continue to see a larger drop in income,' Dr Bailey said, 'it's going to become more difficult to recruit.

But he said the Welsh government had not undermined practices by, for example, introducing Darzi clinics. 'And you do get to live in Wales,' he added.

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