Senedd Conservatives used First Minister’s Questions today to quiz Mark Drakeford on the difficulties facing those seeking face-to-face appointments with GPs.
Deputising for the Welsh Conservative leader, Paul Davies MS quoted comments from the Royal College of GPs’ Mair Hopkin, who said the crisis in surgeries pre-dated Covid, with “a lot of patients finding it difficult to get an appointment before the pandemic and having to wait several weeks.”
This was echoed by Dr Oelmann, a GP at Clark Avenue Surgery in Cwmbran who said that “there is a backlog right through the system and it’s not just GPs… There are backlogs in secondary care, the ambulance service, social care, everything is interlinked. None of it can be viewed in isolation, and it goes around in a circle and becomes more and more difficult for the staff.”
Mr Davies asked the First Minister about what he was doing given the dwindling per head number of GPs when the population continues to grow.
The Preseli Pembrokeshire MS, who is Wales’ Shadow Economy Minister, also mentioned the frequently reported problems of booking appointments via the phone, often taking close to an hour only to be told there are no appointments left.
In response, the First Minister failed to accept that problems existed before coronavirus and was unable to address problems with long “phone queues” to book appointments.
Commenting outside the chamber, Welsh Conservative Paul Davies MS said:
“Problems accessing primary care like GPs is the pebble that causes ripples throughout health and social care services as A&E becomes overcrowded and ambulances are left to queue outside hospitals rather than pick-up more people in need of urgent care.
“So, it is very disappointing to hear the First Minister brush off such concerns as expressed by the Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association, and a doctor on the frontline, including that those problems can be traced back to a pre-Covid shortage of GPs.
“The Welsh Government should now examine ways that, not only recruits and retains GPs but also, makes the job more enjoyable, flexible, and efficient, cutting down on bureaucracy and allowing them more time to be doctors than administrators.
“This is what the Cardiff Bay Labour Government need to concentrate on, not obsessing about constitutional issues and creating unnecessary tensions within the UK. The First Minister, of course, has to deal with the ongoing pandemic – but he’s got to solve the problems that were there before too.”