First Minister Mark Drakeford must commit to making sure there are enough GPs in Wales to support patients, the Welsh Conservatives have said.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS raised the issue of accessing GPs during First Ministers’ Questions in the Senedd today (May 10) and called on the Labour Government to make sure GP provision in Wales was fit for the future.
Labour ministers recently set aside money to maintain the current levels of GPs qualifying at 160 a year, but the British Medical Association has stated 200 extra GPs are needed a year to ensure patients are supported.
Just over two thirds of GPs in Wales are working full-time hours, and Wales has the highest proportion on GPs over the age of 60 in the UK.
In light of that, Davies called for a commitment from the Labour Government to meet the demand of training 200 GPs a year so Wales has a service that is fit for the future.
Drakeford gave a lengthy reply but did not make a commitment outright.
Commenting outside the chamber, Davies – who is also the MS for South Wales Central – said:
“Struggling to book an appointment to see a GP is an issue raised with me time and time again by residents all across the country, and I am sure all politicians across the Senedd have had similar conversations with constituents.
“It is vital Wales has a GP service that is fit for now, and the future, because we have a lot of GPs who are over the age of 60 and are no doubt thinking about retirement or cutting their hours back.
“GPs play a valuable role in our health service and underpin entry into the NHS. They are often the first-place people will turn to when ill, but when people struggle to get an appointment they head to A&E which then adds pressure on hospitals at an already difficult time. By making sure we have a fit-for-purpose GP network, we can hopefully ease the burden on other health care settings.
“The British Medical Association – and let’s not forget they are the experts in this field – insist Wales needs to see 200 GPs qualify every year to be able to fully support patients across Wales, but at the moment, under Labour, we only have 160.
“It is disappointing the First Minister didn’t make an outright commitment to meet the 200 GPs target, but the Welsh Conservatives won’t stop campaigning to make sure we have an up-to-scratch service.”