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BMA Cymru: ‘General practice hangs on a precipice in Wales’

25 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Doctor and patient by agilemktg1 is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

The BMA’s deputy chair of its Welsh Council has issued a stark warning about the ‘truly grim’ predicament facing GPs in Wales after years of severe cuts to funding.

Speaking at the BMA’s annual representatives meeting in Belfast, Dr Phil White, who is also a GP in north Wales, accused the Welsh Government of burying their heads in the sand about the crisis facing GPs and the potential impact this will have on an already severely stretched NHS in Wales.

Addressing the BMA’s membership from across the UK he noted the BMA’s strength remarking on its record-high membership figures and the recent progress made by securing ‘three substantial pay offers’ to restore the significant pay loss for doctors working in secondary care in Wales.

“Truly grim”

Dr White said: “As a union we are stronger than ever, and we will do what it takes to fight for the service we all believe in.”

“Despite this strength and progress made, the predicament facing general practitioners in Wales is truly grim. The service hangs on a precipice, the funding has been slashed and Welsh Government continue to bury their heads in the sand.

“Continuing to ignore the vital role that General Practice plays in the national health service is a grave mistake. My message to Welsh Government is clear. Restore the proportion of the NHS budget which has been cut from General Practice or else it will collapse. If one part of the NHS crumbles, the rest will follow.

“Over the last ten years GPs have been expected to look after 33% more patients while the number of full-time GPs has decreased by 24%, with a fifth of all practices (nearly 100) closing their doors”

“Risk to safety”

He spoke of the risks to patient safety and the personal toll it was taking on GPs with a survey showing that “80% of GPs fear their high workload is detrimental to patient care; morale is low, with many considering their exit.

“Practices are finding ways to stem rising costs – with many reducing existing staff hours or stopping recruitment entirely which all adversely impacts on workload. This is a crisis” he said.

“It is truly shameful, that GP surgeries are expected to run at a deficit, but health boards are simply bailed out by Welsh Government when they overspend” he added.


Referring to BMA Cymru Wales ‘Save our Surgeries’ campaign Dr White said “the public support for an appropriately resourced service is palpable. In a few short weeks, we gathered nearly 22,000 signatures on our Senedd petition, calling on Welsh Government for a rescue package.

Speaking of the bleak picture in Wales with record-high waiting lists rising he added:

“The NHS has been starved for years. Starved of investment, starved of doctors, starved of beds. The impact on patient care is plain to see. Ambulances queuing outside hospitals, patients deteriorating on waiting lists and patients stuck, waiting to be discharged but unable to move on due to a lack of investment in social care.

“The impact on staff is clear too. The rising workload has become unsustainable and understandably, morale is low.

“Three years ago, we publicly called for significant investment in our health service as well as a radical shake-up to create a seamless service. The NHS, social care and community services must work in partnership to effectively meet the needs of patients. Today, I’m restating those calls – the public is behind us – but are the politicians listening?

Dr White ended his speech noting that doctors would continue to campaign for a better service for patients:

“Rest assured, using our collective drive and strength, we will continue to fight for an NHS which has the resources to enable our profession to deliver the care that the people of Wales deserve.”


A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressure GPs face and are investing in new ways for people to access services, like pharmacy and 111 helpline, to relieve some of that pressure.

“Our investment in GP services has been increasing year on year. This year we’ve invested an extra £20m, alongside a further £12 million over three years to support practices in improving access to services.

“As is the case across the UK, practices are making business decisions to merge to serve a larger area and have more registered patients. But the number of GPs in Wales has remained steady over recent years, with an increase in wider practice staff, directly supporting improved access to care for patients.”

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