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Falling GP workforce evidence of Labour’s underinvestment in Welsh NHS

Welsh Conservatives have reacted with dismay at this week’s statistics for Wales’ GP headcount as the number of fully qualified GPs in Wales fell in the first quarter of this year. The Welsh Conservatives have accused Labour of not taking the backlog seriously.

Statistics released by the Welsh Government this week present a grim outlook for the GP workforce, with the fully trained general practitioner headcount decreasing in the first quarter of this year.

The full time equivalent (FTE) fully qualified GP numbers are even worse, decreasing by nearly 2% in the first quarter of 2022 alone.

The decline is exacerbated by the fact that nearly a quarter of Welsh GPs are at or approaching retirement age. Wales has the highest proportion of GPs over the age of 60, in the UK. Additionally, GPs who stepped up to the plate during the pandemic and came out of retirement will now be looking to re-enter retirement.

The slight increase in the number of registrars (trainee GPs) will not be enough to bridge this gap. If numbers continue to fall at the current rate, Wales will have 7% fewer FTE GPs by the end of this year compared with 2021.

Instead of training enough Welsh GPs to match and exceed the numbers leaving the Welsh NHS, Labour are pushing ahead with a £100 million Senedd expansion plan - enough to fund over 300 fully qualified GPs every year.

Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Russell George MS, said:

“NHS waiting lists in Wales already far-exceed those in England, now we are learning that the number of GPs in Wales is in fact going down. Be in no doubt that if this decline continues, it will lead to a bottleneck of those all-important referrals and diagnoses, needed to tackle this backlog.

“It is a shame that Labour are so preoccupied with spending £100 million on sending more politicians to Cardiff Bay as opposed to addressing this shortfall in GP numbers. The Welsh Conservatives would much rather spend that money on the Welsh people’s priorities, especially our NHS.

“We have long been calling for targeted investment and the refunding of tuition fees for Welsh Doctors who stay in Wales to bolster and maintain those numbers. Twenty-three years of Labour underinvestment in our NHS is on full display with this week’s statistics, yet another reminder of the historic mismanagement of our health services in Wales by Labour.”

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