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@marcvjones

One in 13 GPs in north Wales have quit in the past year – by far the worst performing region in Wales.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said: 

“The dramatic fall in GPs registered in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board in the past year is very worrying and reinforces the need to take urgent action to improve medical training here in the North. This cannot go on – we’re seeing more and more GP surgeries closing their doors for a variety of reasons and pressure mounting on those that remain.

“This alarming drop equates to one in every 13 GPs quitting in a single year.

“We’re heading off a cliff here unless the Welsh Government, which has direct oversight of the health board and has done for three years, wakes up and deals with the doctor recruitment, retention and training problem we face. Plaid Cymru will continue to campaign for extra doctors by a comprehensive programme of training and recruitment with a medical school in the region a top priority.”

The figures, released this morning, are based on an annual headcount of GP numbers, and show the number of GPs in Wales is now at 1926, a drop of 83 GPs in just one year. It is 100 fewer than the peak of 2026 GPs in 2013, and the lowest level since the headcount of 2006. This is despite a recruitment campaign launched by the Welsh Government in 2016 that Welsh Labour ministers have been claiming was a success.

The whole-time equivalent numbers have not been published since 2014 whilst Stats Wales investigate concerns over the quality of the data – an investigation that appears not to be coming to a conclusion.

Plaid Cymru has long highlighted Wales’ comparative shortage of doctors leading to longer waiting times and the removal of services from rural areas. The decline in the number of GPs will only make these problems worse, with many people struggling to access their local surgery and often turning to A+E instead.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said the figures were a reminder of the need for a far more concerted effort to train doctors including new home grown doctors. He said: 

“Yet again we have a reminder that Labour’s failure to take doctor recruitment seriously is creating a crisis that if not addressed will jeopardise health service delivery in many parts of Wales.

“These GP shortages have been predicted for years, with the numbers approaching retirement being highlighted every year, and the stress levels that cause burnout constantly highlighted. This year’s decline could just be the start of a wider fall – it’s already showing we have fewer GPs than 10 years ago.
“The Welsh Government, on their website, are claiming that many of those who have left have become locums – as if that means we shouldn’t worry about this fall in GPs. The complacency expressed about this is breath-taking.

“Locums are more expensive than permanent staff, and are likely to be working fewer hours. It’s also going to make it difficult for people to see their GP when they need to, which creates pressure on A+E and partly explains why we’ve seen the worst performance this winter.“
“With Brexit, Burnout and Retirements putting our health workforce at risk, it’s quite clear we need a plan to train and recruit home grown doctors. Such a plan must include increasing training places and the development of Medical Training at Bangor, an initiative which Plaid Cymru is driving, which we secured money for through Budget negotiation, but to which the Labour government is being far too resistant.

“Plaid Cymru remains the only party committed to a plan to increase doctor numbers.”