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Public get better emergency care from vets than GPs, claims Welsh surgeon

27 Aug 2021 4 minute read
Photo by Martin Brosy on Unsplash

A Welsh surgeon has claimed that the public get better emergency care for their pets than they get from family doctors, because there is no financial incentive to provide it.

Joseph Meirion Thomas, who was a senior surgeon at Royal Marsden Hospital and now works for BUPA, said that without market forces in the NHS “GPs have a guaranteed salary irrespective of performance or patient satisfaction”.

“I come from a Welsh mining community and have shown a lifetime commitment to the NHS. I want it preserved and not eroded,” he said, but added that “GPs must give the public better value for money.”

“This week, we are looking after my daughter’s dog,” he told the Telegraph. “On her instruction sheet were the details of the vet and, in an emergency, the out-of-hours contact number. GPs offer no such out-of-hours service and the best one can hope for is to ring 111 and speak to a non-medically qualified operator.

“If that results in a home visit, it will probably be done by a paramedic. Do pets get better emergency care than patients in the UK? Certainly, vets have a financial incentive to serve their customers well.”


He added that during the pandemic GPs seem to have been “missing in action entirely, having established ‘fortress’ surgeries”.

“It is difficult not to conclude that, at present, general practice is run for the benefit of doctors and not for the benefit of patients who are paying for the service,” he said.

“Even before the pandemic, there were signs of changes for the worse. Patients no longer had a named GP and they could be seen by any doctor in the practice, often a transient locum. Getting an appointment was difficult.

“Gone was any obligation to provide continuity of care, the service which patients most value. Moving to another practice was/is well-nigh impossible.

“Why has it all gone wrong?”


Earlier this year the Welsh Government said it recognised the “extraordinary contribution” of GPs during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was announced that GPs in Wales would receive a one-off bonus payment of £735 in recognition.

The Welsh Government said the bonus will go to 222,000 people in Wales, including 90,000 NHS Wales staff, over 100,000 social care workers and 26,000 primary care staff such as GPs.

Then health minister Vaughan Gething said NHS and social care staff “have shown a remarkable amount of commitment and courage” throughout the pandemic, and will have suffered an impact on their “physical and mental health wellbeing” as a result.

“This payment expresses our gratitude to our NHS and social care workforce for their extraordinary contribution in keeping Wales safe,” he said.

However, in July NHS unions said they had been left “disappointed and upset” after the Welsh Government announced only a 3% pay rise for NHS staff.

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said the wage increase “recognises the dedication and commitment” of staff, but the nursing union said that it was a “long way off” the 12.5% they had been campaigning for.

The offer came after the same 3% deal was put forward by the Westminster Government for NHS nurses and colleagues in England on Wednesday evening. Most NHS nurses in Scotland were awarded a 4% pay rise earlier this year.

When making the announcement for Wales, Eluned Morgan said: “Once again, I want to thank our Welsh NHS staff for their extraordinary efforts over the course of this pandemic.

“Many staff have worked extremely long hours under enormous pressure. This pay rise recognises the dedication and commitment of hardworking NHS staff and the enormous contribution they have made.

“It is also a recognition of how valued they are by Welsh communities.”

But Helen Whyley, Director, Royal College of Nursing Wales, said: “The 3% award from the Welsh Government is bitterly disappointing.

“This does not reflect the 12.5% ask of the Royal College of Nursing, which would bring nurses in line with other professions and redress the fact that their wages have reduced over the last 10 years.”

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2 years ago

I would agree I went off ill in December I have not seen a Gp at all I have had an X-ray two blood tests and today I have seen the first doctor I have seen, in the thoracic dept and that will lead pretty well on with a different Doctor and referral back to gp .

W. Ken Davies
W. Ken Davies
2 years ago

When I was a child, our G.P. Held a morning surgery at her home in a nearby town, and an afternoon surgery at a rented room in our village. She did her home visits on the way home. What went wrong?

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago

He makes a big deal of his mining community roots and support for the NHS but his outbursts appear in papers such as the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Spectator, He is a cancer surgeon, who lost his job at the Royal Marsden in 2015. From what I could glean he has been a long term critic of NHS GP services. One of his chief gripes was that there are too many female GPs, working part time so it takes two of them to do the work of one male GP, and by taking up over 60% of medical school places… Read more »

Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
2 years ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

I guess in your myopic narrow Welsh world anybody who reads the daily mail, telegraph etc presumably are ” nasty Tories” or heaven forbid English.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago

Actually, I am friendly with some very nice English Tories who have been genuinely good friends to Wales and the Welsh NHS. I sometimes help them with the Telegraph crossword!

The point I was making was that Meirion Thomas was implying, with his Welsh mining community, lifetime NHS commitment comment, that he was some sort of diehard valleys socialist, when he isn’t. A bit like people using ridiculous hyphenated Welsh sounding names to imply their views on Wales and the Welsh must be reasonable because they must be Welsh.

Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
2 years ago

Absolutely correct. GPs are overpaid and have been missing in action during the pandemic. The whole lot should be privatised along with the rest of the failing NHS.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
2 years ago

In the case of vets one is paying a lot for private healthcare. I took my dog to an emergency vet a few weeks and it cost £353 to be seen and given a few antibiotics.

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