Elin Jones: Recruiting an additional 1000 doctors for Wales

In recent years the problems of appropriately staffing the NHS throughout all four nations have become more widely known, whether it is the impending timebomb of GP retirement, the problems highlighted by the Francis report in relation to safe staffing, or the challenges posed by the European Working Time Directive and stricter immigration controls. In Wales, the Longley report of 2012 [1] highlights the future recruitment challenges we face, particularly with regards to GPs in rural areas and the South Wales Valleys. Against this backdrop, demands being placed upon the NHS are increasing due to demographic changes and higher prevalence of chronic conditions. If we are not careful, this combination of ever fewer staff facing ever increasing demands will threaten the sustainability of the NHS.

These problems are behind Plaid Cymru’s plans to recruit and train an additional 1000 doctors for Wales. Wales has a higher prevalence of ill health due to our industrial heritage, and the rural nature of the country makes the recruitment of the next generation of GPs a challenge.

Our proposals to recruit 1000 doctors can fit into four themes: (1) creative use of financial incentives, (2) adopting a more innovative NHS, (3) investing in training, and (4) use of international recruitment. The financial incentives include paying off student debt in exchange for service obligations, and would apply to areas or specialisms that are hard to recruit to. The Wales Deanery survey found that 95% of doctors who complete training in Wales stay in Wales and indicates that specific workforce problems could be resolved by ensuring that postgraduate trainees train in the areas and specialisms where there are predicted to be shortages. By offering financial incentives for doctors to train in these areas and specialisms, we could start to alleviate the problems of the present, and also prevent the problems of the future.

An innovative NHS would include a paperless NHS which would cut bureaucracy and enable medical professionals to care for patients rather than spend time completing forms. We also want more research to occur within Wales, and would mainstream clinical research within everyday practice. We are proposing an integrated health and social care system involving teams of health professionals providing care around the clock.

We think more opportunities and support should be given to encourage children from poorer backgrounds into medicine, which in Wales would include children from Welsh speaking backgrounds so we can secure the future of Welsh language service provision. This would mean investing in our medical schools so that sufficient places were available to Welsh students who met the required standard.

We believe that adopting ideas such as these will help to ensure we have a sustainable NHS for the whole of Wales. You can read more about our proposals for doctor recruitment into Wales from the Plaid Cymru website www.plaidcymru.org or download the proposals directly from http://issuu.com/plaid/docs/1000_doctors_pdf .

1. MJ Longley (2012) The Best Configuration of Hospital Services for Wales: A Review of the Evidence Pontypridd: University of Glamorgan and Welsh NHS Confederation.

Elin Jones is the Party of Wales Shadow Health Minister.