Plaid Cymru wants to press ahead with an achievable training and recruitment plan that brings the number of doctors per head in Wales initially to the UK average then beyond. This is the 1000 doctors policy. 1000 extra doctors would take us to the level of the North East of England, which has similar health needs. Wales would still be substantially below the EU average or Scotland – but it would be a step forward.
One thousand extra doctors would add between £70 to £100 million to the payroll at current rates depending on which specialisms the doctors ended up working in (and includes calculations for additional financial incentives). However, because this cost would be a gradual rise of the wage bill over the next 10 years as the doctors were recruited and trained, the financial hit wouldn’t be experienced immediately. The current health and social care budget is £6.5 billion – so our proposal involves increasing spending by less than 1% of the current budget within 10 years.
The adoption of this policy would lead to substantial savings from the agency and locum bills – which amount to over £100 million a year. Furthermore a pop tax would raise £45 million, plus reduce NHS expenditure on diabetes – which currently represents 10% of the NHS budget.
However, people who are familiar with the NHS know that finance is not the obstacle to recruitment of doctors. Making the NHS in Wales more attractive for doctors to work in is the main challenge we would face. That’s why we proposed many policies such as a paperless NHS, making the NHS research friendly, and developing more home grown doctors through investments in training
The need is obvious; wards are closing and services being moved from local hospitals because of a shortage of doctors, almost a quarter of GPs are close to retirement and will need to be replaced (in the valleys this figure approaches 50%), and the demands on the health service are rising daily. We simply won’t have an NHS without doctors – solving the GP shortage by asking people in the Valleys to travel to Cardiff or in our rural areas to travel long distances to see a GP is just not an option.