Rural GPs warn of 'looming crisis'

RURAL GPs have warned of a looming crisis if attempts to attract medical graduates to become family doctors continue to have limited success.

The topic was raised at the annual Rural Primary Care Conference, organised by Montgomeryshire Medical Society at Gregynog Hall, near Newtown, Wales.

Society chairman Dr Martin Green said there was serious concern among the 150 delegates about the future of some rural GP practices in the next five years when a large number of doctors are due to retire.

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"The great success recruiting rural GPs in the 1980s has now created a problem, as many of them are coming up to retirement in the next five years," he said.

"There are already vacancies in GP practices across Mid Wales and the borders, which are proving very difficult to fill.

"We must nurture our young doctors and encourage them to enter rural practice.

"What was particularly pleasing about the conference was that around 10 per cent of the delegates were trainee doctors, who gave us all a lift with their enthusiasm."

One of the young delegates was Cerian Davies, 25, a second year doctor currently based at Burton on Trent District Hospital.

She spent two days with Dr Green in his practice at Llanidloes, which was enough to convince her to become a rural GP.

"It has been difficult to make a career choice half way through my second year as a doctor," said Ms Davies, whose parents were originally from the Ebbw Vale area.

"I have learned so much over the first two years and I was very unsure about rural practice until this week.

"Spending a couple of days with Dr in Llanidloes showed me that being a rural GP has a lot more to offer than being a city GP.

"There is a lot more variety to the work and more opportunities to perform minor procedures and care for minor injuries that you wouldn't experience in the city without working in A&E.

Dealing with these problems in GP practices takes a lot of strain off district hospitals.

Ms Davies plans to return to become a rural GP somewhere in Wales.

Other second year doctors spent time with GPs in Brecon, Llanfair Caereinion and Llanfyllin as part of an initiative organised by the Institute of Rural Health to provide "rural tasters".

"It's important to let these young doctors experience all aspects of our work so that they see what rural practice is really like," added Dr Green.

"High morale and high standards appropriately portrayed are vital to keeping a vibrant rural workforce and attracting new recruits to all disciplines."

The three-day conference attracted GPs, nurses and practice managers from across Wales and as far away as Cumbria and East Anglia.

Held on 25-27 September, it was hosted in partnership with the Institute of Rural Health.

The popular annual event is designed to meet and address the learning needs of healthcare professionals working in rural primary care, particularly GPs.

This year's programme included hot topics in rural practice and neurology, men's health and clinical skills in primary care.


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