The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Wales have welcomed a recently published report, commissioned by Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian and Hywel Williams MP which calls for a North Wales medical school to help tackle the acute national shortage of doctors.
The 'Tackling the Crisis' report was published last month, stating the case for a third Welsh medical school to be located in Bangor. It claims that the training and recruitment of medical staff is at crisis point in many parts of Wales, particularly in rural and north Wales, and that a rurally based medical school is a vital part of an all-Wales approach to tackling the problem.
Giving their full backing to the report, the RCP say that without long term measures to increase the NHS Wales workforce, the NHS will be unable to cope with the needs of an ageing population and a rise in clinical demand, especially in rural and remote areas.
Dr Gareth Llewelyn, RCP Vice President for Wales said: "As the professional body for physicians in Wales, we have consistently called for a more innovative and joined-up approach to the recruitment and retention of NHS staff. We believe that it is time for a clinically-led national medical workforce and training plan.
"There are major gaps in both trainee and consultant-grade rotas in every hospital in Wales and 92% of our consultants say they find themselves doing jobs that would normally be done by a junior doctor, because the rota gaps are so severe.
"There are not simply not enough Welsh- domiciled students applying to medical school, and the numbers are declining every year. This is why we very much welcome contribution that 'Tackling the Crisis' makes to this debate."
The number of students from Wales applying to study medicine has fallen by 15% in five years – a steeper drop than in the rest of the UK - and north and west Wales have fewer GPs per 10,000 population than the rest of the country. In 2015–16, 50% of consultant physician posts in north Wales were unfilled and in February this year it was revealed that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board had spent £21m on agency medical staff in 11 months.
Siân Gwenllian said: "I'm extremely grateful to the RCP in Wales for putting their weight behind the campaign for a third medical school in Wales. There is already a great deal of professional and political support to set up a medical school in north west Wales, building on the resources of Bangor University’s School of Medical Sciences and the resources of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
"With many doctors reaching retirement age and not enough young people being trained here, health care services are already facing huge challenges. A new medical school is a vital part of the long term solution if we are to meet the growing needs of communities across the country, especially here in north Wales and other rural areas."
The newly re-elected MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams, has been another campaigner for the North Wales Medical School. He said: "We have been calling for a medical school in Bangor for a long time. It's about time that the Welsh Government delivered on a promise that was made so many years ago when Betsi Cadwaladr was first set up.
"The fact that Wales has two medical schools, in Cardiff and Swansea – and none here in the north – is yet another example of the inequality faced by many of our communities.
"Added to the closure and withdrawal of public services from rural villages and small towns, as well as massive economic disparity, the lack of investment in medical training in North Wales is causing further inequality in terms of health and wellbeing.
"It also means that our young people aren't given the equal option of training as medics within their own communities."
'Tackling the Crisis' is available to download from Siân Gwenllian AM's website, www.plaidcymruarfon.org