Wales Decides 2016: The Doctor Dilemma

A hospital near you is looking for a doctor. Wales has hundreds of vacancies (around 500) and many are in important areas like emergency medicine and children's care.

This isn't a uniquely Welsh problem. Across the UK hospitals are looking to recruit and that means Wales isn't just competing against England, Scotland and Northern Ireland but also against Australia, Canada and the Middle East.

So how do we solve this doctor dilemma? Well Bangor could show us the way.

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Like other rural hospitals the emergency unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd had problems attracting doctors. Medical graduates opt to work in bigger hospitals in big cities where the perception is there are better training opportunities.

In 2011, the department hit a crisis point when it faced having no middle-grade doctors, so the unit had a choice - adapt or die. Today the emergency department is so popular with doctors, there's now a waiting list for new recruits.

The consultant who led the change says what they've done can also be done across the Welsh NHS - offer a job people want, brand it properly and sell yourself.

Linda Dykes says the job of recruitment shouldn't be left to HR Credit: ITV Wales

"Doctors don't want to be cannon fodder," Linda Dykes told me. She asked young doctors what they wanted in a job and developed a career package that would appeal to them. It worked.

At Ysbyty Gwynedd, new recruits spend time out with ambulance crews and are given opportunities not available elsewhere.

The second lesson is in the branding. The emergency department is part of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board but doctors from outside Wales didn't know where that was - so it was re-branded as Mountain Medicine, making the most of its surrounding landscape to pull people in.

The third lesson is to sell your product. Get on social media and spread the word. Everyone is competing for the talent, so find it and boast about local life; the mountains, the beaches even the cost of housing.

There is evidence that other health boards are learning from Bangor's success. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board has launched a video appealing to doctors using footage of the coastline, castles and the Gower. It says it's had over 70,000 views and even the Health Minister has hit YouTube.

Carl Edwards explains what the parties are promising on doctor recruitment

Can Wales' doctor shortage be solved by England's junior doctor dispute? Well, there are no guarantees of that.

Some hope the English dispute will see thousands of disgruntled young doctors seeking refuge in Wales from an imposed contract. There is anecdotal evidence of enquiries being made about working in the Welsh NHS, but there's not enough evidence yet of people making the move to Wales.

And there are other factors to consider. Scotland is also hoping to benefit from the English dispute, and it hasn't attracted the negative political and media attention that the NHS in Wales has.

So nobody should think that England's pain will be Wales' gain. The lesson from Bangor is to focus on what you offer year in year out and to sell it properly.

That should be the focus, regardless of what's happening over the border.

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