Health Watchdog lobbies Minister for ‘free flow’ of GPs to Wales
The independent health watchdog for North Wales – the North Wales Community Health Council (‘NWCHC’) has stepped up its campaign for changes that would mean that GPs could easily come to work in North Wales.
Geoff Ryall-Harvey, Chief Officer of the North Wales Community Health Council (NWCHC) says, ‘In 2014, the NWCHC lobbied the then Health Minister to make changes to the system which prevented GPs registered in England to take up posts in Wales and to start work immediately. In January 2015, we were pleased to hear that rules had been changed to allow General Practitioners based primarily in England to work in Wales. We are disappointed to learn however, that those changes have failed to alleviate the problems and there remains to be barriers in place preventing the ‘free-flow’ of GPs between England and Wales. ’
Mr Ryall-Harvey went on to explain, ‘It is widely known that Wales is facing a GP ‘recruitment crisis.’ We are aware that there is a large pool of potential locums in the North West of England who are discouraged from working in North Wales, in part, by the ‘registration process’ which they must complete so that they can work here. For example, a GP living in Chester, who might be choosing between locum posts in Blacon (England) and Saltney (Wales) – (both of which are about 2,000 yards from the centre of Chester) – such a GP is likely to choose the Blacon job rather than go through a further bureaucratic form filling exercise which would need to be completed so that he could practice in Wales.’
In a recent letter to Vaughan Gethin – Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, Mr Ryall-Harvey pointed out ‘There is no other profession in the UK that has similar rules enforced upon it. If teachers, lawyers or architects from Wales were not allowed to work freely in England, then there would be an outcry on both sides of the border – especially if those professionals were desperately needed. You should also be aware that Welsh doctors who qualified in Welsh Medical Schools – but who are currently registered in England, are also prevented from practicing in Wales until they apply to be on the ‘Welsh Performers List’.
In the past twelve months the NWCHC has been consulted on five occasions where entire GP practices have given notice that they are surrendering their contracts. There are many more changes that have involved the closure of branch surgeries, closure of lists and/ or reduction of practice boundaries as practices struggle to cope with the retirement of GP Principals and the inability to recruit young doctors.