Welsh GPs hit back after first minister denies general practice crisis

GP leaders have hit back at Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones over comments denying there was a crisis in general practice in Wales.

Dr Eamonn Jessup: 'The first minister seems unaware of the mounting issues'
Dr Eamonn Jessup: 'The first minister seems unaware of the mounting issues'

Controversial comments from the Welsh first minister came just days before the 2016 Welsh LMCs conference in Chester on 27 February.

The first motion listed for debate at the conference calls on the government to acknowledge the crisis facing British general practice, and sets out steps to address it.

But this week, the Welsh first minister claimed GP numbers in Wales were rising and was reported as saying: 'I don't think there is a crisis with recruitment.'

North Wales LMC chairman Dr Eamonn Jessup, whose LMC will propose the motion urging the government to recognise the GP crisis, wrote to Mr Jones to set out his concern over the minister's comments.

The letter warns: 'It might well suit politically to deny the reality of the worsening general practice situation until after the assembly elections but we are deeply concerned you might be receiving information from your advisers that is at odds with the real situation we face at the chalk face.'

Read more: Dr Eamonn Jessup's letter in full

Dr Jessup wrote that on the day the minister's comments were first reported, he received a call from a 10,000-patient practice whose partners had decided to resign en masse because they had been unable to recruit new GPs. He cited other examples of recent practice closures in Wales.

GPonline reported last year on the collapse of an 18,000-patient practice over long-term recruitment problems. Dr Jessup is a former partner at the Prestatyn practice, and continues to work there despite having retired in a bid to help keep it afloat.

Dr Charlotte Jones, Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee in Wales said: 'I am very concerned that the first minister seems unaware of the mounting issues that are affecting north and rural Wales.

'GPC Wales has long warned of the recruitment problems facing GPs and primary care, and sadly, these comments are totally at odds to the situation facing GPs in north Wales.

'The bottom line is that we need more GPs in order to offer patients a safe standard of care.'

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: 'As the first minister has said, we accept there’s a challenge to recruiting GPs in some parts of Wales and there are various reasons for that. We continue to work with the BMA and the RCGP to identify and overcome any barriers to recruitment and develop innovative ways to improve access to primary care services.

'But it’s important to acknowledge the number of GPs in Wales has increased by more than 10% between 2004 and 2014, with 2,006 GPs working in 462 general practices across Wales. The first minister will respond to letters in full, in due course.'

Welsh GP leaders at this year's LMCs conference will debate dropping the QOF.

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