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GP Recruitment

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2022

In September 2022 there were nearly 2,300 more full-time equivalent doctors in general practice than there were at the same time in 2019, and more than 9,000 GP trainees.

A constituent of mine, a full-time GP in her 50s, told me that the pension rules mean she has to retire, work part-time or emigrate, which is hardly likely to help her patients to obtain appointments with her. Having hinted at a change in doctors’ pension rules last summer, the Government are only now announcing a consultation that will last until next spring, so there will be no change in these crazy rules until next summer at the earliest. Is this not too little, too late?

It is worth reminding the House that there are 3% more doctors this year than last year. As I have said, we have 2,300 more full-time GPs, and we are recruiting more. However, the hon. Lady is absolutely right about doctors’ pensions; that is a material issue, which is why we launched the consultation, and we are working with Treasury colleagues to address these concerns as quickly as possible.

GP numbers are falling in Wales. Healthcare is devolved to the Welsh Labour Government, and although Ynys Môn is represented by five members of the Senedd in Cardiff, healthcare concerns constitute a staggering 25% of my postbag. Does the Secretary of State agree that families throughout Wales are not receiving the healthcare that they need and deserve from the Welsh Labour Government?

I do agree with my hon. Friend, and I think it would help the House to assess the performance of the Welsh Government if there were more transparency. For instance, the Opposition motion on today’s Order Paper refers to vacancies in England. I am sure it will surprise the House to learn that the Welsh Government stopped collecting statistics for workforce vacancies in 2011. I look forward to Opposition Members’ encouraging their Welsh colleagues to be more transparent.

Members on both sides of the House will have been shocked and appalled by the recent deaths of children from streptococcus A, and our thoughts are with all the families affected. Cases are on the rise, and as we head into winter it is vital for parents to be able to secure for their children the care that they so desperately need. The shortage of GPs means that too many are struggling to see a doctor, and now there are reports of shortages of antibiotics as well. What advice can the Secretary of State give parents whose children are exhibiting symptoms but who cannot obtain a GP appointment, and what assurances can he give on the supply and availability of antibiotics?

This is an important issue which I know is of concern to many families throughout the country, so I am pleased to be able to reassure the House about our response. While GPs are important in this regard, so are directors of public health, who are leading the response in respect of, for example, liaison with schools. We are seeing a peak in cases earlier than usual, which we believe is due to lower exposure during the pandemic, which in turn has led to lower immunity. There is no new strain, and that is one of the key points of reassurance, but the UK Health Security Agency has declared a national standard to improve the co-ordination of our response, including what is being done in schools.