Sunday, 26 January 2014


Personally I tend to do my research and actually to read something to try to gain an understanding before I express an opinion, hence the pretty much instant an vociferous attack launched by the usual suspects on Plaid proposals for recruiting doctors tended to suggest that the proposals had more than a little merit. Having read it, I think that the proposal to pay off the debt of student doctors as part of a package of measures to overcome the recruitment crisis threatening the future of the Welsh NHS was one of the sharper pieces of political thinking so far this year.  

The policy would be in return for a number of guaranteed years’ service, help to tackle the recruitment crisis in the Welsh NHS, by attracting 1,000 doctors.  The ongoing failure to attract doctors to Wales has been used as one of the main excuses behind the Labour in Wales Government’s centralisation agenda of the Welsh Government and health boards.

The Labour in Wales Government’s policy of centralization; which is something that is particularly ill-suited to a country such as ours, has now placed under threat the services at numerous local hospitals. It is has also estimated that there is a GP ‘time bomb‘ which will severely effect certain parts of Wales with many GP’s being on the verge of retirement which combined with a real lack of new recruits ready to replace them – means that we have a problem that needs to be solved.   

At Plaid Cymru’s autumn conference, party leader Leanne Wood made a pledge to recruit an extra 1,000 doctors to Wales over two terms of a Welsh Government led by her.  Such a recruitment drive would help offset the fact that Wales has one of the lowest levels of doctors per head of the population in the EU with only Romania and Poland worse off.  The consultation is also seeking to improve access to GPs in the community, tackle the lengthening waiting lists for operations and increase the capacity of the NHS to deal with an ageing population.

Plaid’s consultation document outlines in greater detail how the 1,000 doctors will be enlisted to shore up Wales’s creaking NHS.  The exercise will seek to lay solid foundations for the NHS in Wales to not just to survive, but to thrive.  The policies contained in the consultation document are grouped into four main themes; financial incentives, creating an innovative NHS, revamping and reinvesting in training and finally, international recruitment. A number of the policies are a combination of long-term and short term measures which the Welsh Government could, and should be, encouraging as a matter of urgency.

Some of the policies will require extra funding; some measures are designed to save money such as the creation of a paperless NHS to cut down on bureaucracy and mainstreaming clinical research in order to bring in extra research income. The consultation document includes proposals to:
  • Pay off student debt for doctors in return for them spending a portion of their training and early employment in an under-served area.
  • Develop an innovative NHS and a heavy emphasis on research to make Wales a more attractive place for doctors to develop their careers.        
  • Revamp training for postgraduate doctors to improve the skills that currently exists. 
  • Recruit doctors from foreign countries as a short term solution to specific staffing shortages.
Naturally Plaid’s radical proposals were roundly condemned by Labour Party in Wales elected representatives. I personally will lose no sleep over this, as by way of comparison to previous condemnations of Plaid proposals, this means that within about six months Labour in Wales will be discussing it. And a few months after that the barely edited Plaid’s proposals will be orthodox Labour in Wales policy, and in their manifesto by 2016. This will retrospectively tell us two things, firstly that Plaid’s proposal is realistic and secondly that Labour in Wales is entirely bereft of any worthwhile ideas.

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