Welsh government to pay young GPs' medical school fees to ease workforce crisis

Young doctors who commit to careers in general practice in Wales could have their medical school fees paid off by the government as part of a package of measures to ease the primary care workforce crisis.

Dr Charlotte Jones: backs £4.5m workforce plan (Photo: Ray Farley)
Dr Charlotte Jones: backs £4.5m workforce plan (Photo: Ray Farley)

A £4.5m education and training plan set out by health minister Professor Mark Drakeford will expand GP retainer schemes and increase the exposure of doctors in training to general practice and work in community settings.

In line with proposals from health secretary Jeremy Hunt in England, the Welsh government will launch a campaign to promote the benefits of careers in general practice in Wales.

In a bid to tackle a chronic shortage of doctors in the short-term, the Welsh government will also look at an overhaul of performers list rules to make it easier for GPs on the English list to work across the border in Wales.

The announcement comes just weeks after GPonline revealed that Welsh health boards were wasting thousands of pounds on directly managing practices vacated by partners who could no longer cope with workforce problems.

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GPC Wales chairwoman Dr Charlotte Jones said: 'GPC Wales broadly welcomes the plan and the attached resource of £4.5m.

'We have consistently raised grave concerns about the recruitment and retention of GPs and practice nurses so we are pleased that a range of solutions have been set out to try to address these problems. Indeed, many of the proposed solutions are ideas that we have highlighted as being worthy of consideration, including the plan to reimburse medical school fees when a newly-qualified doctor commits to a career in general practice.'

But she warned that more must be done counteract the impact of changes to tax and pensions that create a 'disincentive for older GPs to continue working'.

'There is still an urgent need for Welsh government to promote realistic messages about what can be delivered within NHS resources, amending access policy to provide rapid access only for those with urgent clinical need and encouraging self-help and restraint,' she added.

Primary care workforce

Professor Drakeford said: 'Our goal is to meet the rising demand for healthcare by making the most of the skills our dedicated primary care workforce already have and supporting them in their continued desire to innovate and improve the services they provide every day.

'This can be achieved by bringing together teams of people with the necessary skills to meet the needs of people and the local communities they serve. It is also important that everyone in those teams works at the top of their clinical competence – they only do what only they can do.

'This prudent healthcare approach to developing our primary care workforce will improve access to care and the continuity and quality of that care.  It is also central to rebalancing the workload of all those who work in primary care so roles and services are sustainable and can adapt to meet future demand.'

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