Plaid Assembly Member urges Health Secretary to not disregard one of the most rural areas in Wales.
The failure to include Carmarthenshire in the scheme to offer financial incentives for trainee GPs is having a negative impact on recruitment in the county – that was the message Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Adam Price gave to the Welsh Government's Health Secretary this week having been contacted by concerned local doctors.
The Welsh Government's "This is Wales: Train, Work, Live" scheme was launched with NHS Wales in order to promote Wales as a place for doctors, including GPs and their families to train, work and live. The financial incentive scheme targeted areas in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, North Wales West and North Wales East.
The scheme has resulted in 100% of GP training places filled in these areas, but Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Adam Price said local GPs had contacted him to say it has also resulted in "the lowest number of trainees [the Carmarthen scheme has] had for many years."
This week the UK Government's Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced that newly-qualified GPs will be offered a one-off payment of £20,000 if they start their careers in areas that struggle to attract family doctors.
Mr Price said he recognised the positive results of the Welsh Government's scheme in the selected areas, but called on the Welsh Health Secretary to address "the unintended negative consequences" it was having on Carmarthenshire which Mr Price said is "now effectively the only rural area where the scheme does not exist."
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member, Adam Price said:
"In the first instance I want to recognise the positive impact the financial incentives have had in attracting GP trainees to areas in which places have been historically difficult to fill. To see 100% of places filled is a good thing, and I don't wish to undermine the success of that work.
"That said, Carmarthenshire is now effectively the only rural area in Wales where the scheme does not exist. Local GPs have contacted me to say the failure to include Carmarthen has had a negative impact on GP trainee recruitment. Indeed the lowest number of trainees for many years started their programmes in Carmarthen this year.
"Latest figures show that an average of 32% of GPs in the Amman/Gwendraeth, Llanelli and Taf/Towy areas are close to retirement. If we consider this, and the difficulty local practices have in replacing retiring GPs, then it is vital that the unintended negative consequences of excluding Carmarthenshire from the training scheme is addressed urgently.
"I have made representations to the Welsh Government's Health Secretary to urge him to include Carmarthen in the scheme. The trainee figures and GP retirement ages speak for themselves. It is imperative the Cabinet Secretary now acts swiftly to not leave Carmarthenshire and local residents at a disadvantage."