Plaid Cymru to employ hundreds more GPs to tackle 'health crisis'

Mabon ap Gwynfor announced Plaid Cymru would employ an extra 500 GPs across two Senedd terms spanning a decade. Credit: Plaid Cymru/PA Images

Plaid Cymru has set out plans to employ an extra 500 GPs and restore junior doctor pay levels as part of plans to tackle the strain on the Welsh NHS.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid's health and care spokesperson, announced the policy at the party's conference in Caernarfon on Saturday.

Mr Gwynfor said there is a "chronic" health crisis in Wales which will be here for "at least another generation, unless urgent steps are taken."

He added the party's plan would give children a better chance of being able to "live their lives with dignity."

Plaid Cymru's conference comes just days before thousands of junior doctors are expected to stage a four day strike next week, starting at 7am on Monday and finishing at the same time on Friday morning.

Junior doctors are set to strike for four days next week, from Monday to Friday, in Wales. Credit: PA Images

Monday's industrial action will be the third time Welsh junior doctors have walked out this year over pay and conditions, with appointments at hospitals and GPs set to be disrupted.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors' salaries have dropped by almost a third in 15 years.

The Welsh Government said a 5% pay offer is the most it can afford.

Mr Gwynfor said Plaid Cymru would "listen to the demands of the striking workforce by restoring the pay levels of junior doctors, and giving nurses the flexibility they need in their NHS contracts."

The ambition to hire hundreds of additional GPs would be carried out over the next decade, covering two Senedd terms.

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Amongst other pledges for the health service, Mr Gwynfor said Plaid Cymru, currently the third largest party in the Senedd, would also make sure 8.7% of the NHS spend goes on funding GPs - as has been the case previously - and would see carers in Wales paid "at least" £1 an hour above the real living wage.

The real living wage currently stands at £12 across the UK apart from London, where the rate is higher.

The Plaid Cymru health and care spokesperson said: "If we really want to tackle the health crisis, then we really need to tackle poverty."

Talking about the link between poverty and heath, Mr Gwynfor, who is the Senedd member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, added: "The stark facts are that if you live in a more deprived community in Wales, you are more likely to get cancer and more likely to die from cancer.

"One in five of all hospital visits due to respiratory illnesses are as a result of poor, damp housing. And study after study has demonstrated the link between poverty and diabetes."

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth addressed the conference yesterday as he looked ahead to the UK general election. Credit: PA Images

It was confirmed earlier this week Eluned Morgan will remain as health secretary after new First Minister Vaughan Gething revealed his Welsh government cabinet.

Plaid Cymru are in a cooperation agreement with Welsh Labour, meaning they work together on some issues, such as free school meals. However, as it stands that deal is due to end this year.

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS attacked Welsh Labour's record in government as he said: "The response from Labour in Wales has been to blame individuals and tell them to take more personal responsibility, whilst simultaneously denying there's a crisis in our health service, cutting funds for preventative programmes and restricting the budget for local authorities who fund many of the leisure centres and healthy living activities."

In total, 250 doctors and nurses are set to arrive in Wales from India shortly under a deal between the Welsh and Indian governments, joining another 400 medics who arrived under the 'Once for Wales' scheme previously.

Responding to the issue of junior doctors' pay, Health Secretary Eluned Morgan said: "It is disappointing that doctors have decided to take industrial action again, but we understand the strength of feeling about the 5% pay offer.

“While we wish to address pay restoration ambitions, our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us at present and reflects the position reached with the other health unions for this year."

She added the Welsh government could not pay more "without additional funding from the UK Government" but said Vaughan Gething's administration is "available for talks at any stage" with the BMA.

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