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More smart solutions to health workforce crisis

Tony Ryall MP National Party Health Spokesman
& Anne Tolley MP National Party Education Spokeswoman

30 September 2008

More smart solutions to health workforce crisis

A National-led Government will lift the number of funded medical student places by a further 200 students over five years, Health spokesman Tony Ryall and Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley announced today.

National will also increase the number of GP registrar training places available to medical graduates.

"We're among the world's biggest exporters and importers of doctors**. This can't go on. We need to move towards self-sufficiency," says Mr Ryall.

"This needs to be a multi-faceted response, including the voluntary bonding announcement made last week, National's economic plan which addresses the wage gap with Australia, and the announcement today which tackles doctor supply issues."

The initiatives will be funded within the indicative allocations for health and education detailed in the 2008 Budget. and is part of National's plan to focus funding on frontline services. National's announcement follows the release of the Medical Training Board's first report this afternoon.

"The health system is in crisis, with workforce shortages in many professional fields. National has fresh ideas to tackle the health workforce crisis and has already announced its plan for the voluntary bonding of doctors, nurses, and midwives in hard-to staff areas and specialties."

There are currently 365 medical student places funded in our universities each year.

"This announcement by National of a more than 50% increase in funded medical student places over five years is part of our plan to confront the health workforce crisis," says Mrs Tolley.

She says this latest policy is expected to cost $3 million in the first year, $7 million in the second, and around $13 million a year by year three. The funding includes an allocation for additional infrastructural costs for universities.

Med student numbers will start climbing in 2010. We are advised that the lead-in time is necessary to allow universities to build up academic staffing and other capacity.

"However, if we can get the universities to start sooner, we will."

"We consider this a significant step towards meeting our own medical staffing needs in the medium term. With more immediate impact, we can announce today that National will also increase the number of funded GP-registrar training places from 104 to 154," says Mr Ryall.

This is expected to cost $5 million a year. This funding includes an allocation for the additional infrastructural and support costs that a general practice must face if it takes on a trainee GP. The additional numbers will apply from 2010, as recruitment for this training is usually completed mid-year.

"National will also encourage more medical students to do more of their practical education in rural and provincial areas. Research shows that this increases the likelihood they will work in such areas.

"There are now fewer GPs in New Zealand than in 1999. As a result of these critical workforce shortages, patients throughout the system are waiting longer, having surgery cancelled, and have difficulty enrolling with a GP.

"While Labour calls for more reports that it can add to the pile of 55 already done on the health workforce crisis, National has a plan to act. We want a patient-centred health service that delivers better care, sooner, and is more convenient. That's what these practical measures are all about."

ENDS

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