National is promising to tackle New Zealand's doctor shortage by boosting the number of medical student places by 200 a year.
The policy, released yesterday, would cost $31 million a year, once it was fully implemented five years after a National-led government entered office.
National's policy launch followed the release of a Medical Training Board report which said medical schools needed to create at least 100 new places over the next four years to meet future workforce needs.
The report also rang alarm bells over the health sector's reliance on locums and the shortage of GPs in many rural areas.
National's health spokesman Tony Ryall said his party's plan would see student places progressively boosted from 365 now to 565 in 2014. The first increase of 60 extra places would be in 2010. The plan would cost $3 million extra in its first year, rising to $31 million in 2014.
Mr Ryall said the money for the policy would be found from existing funds already allocated to health and education in future Budget years.
"The health system is in crisis, with workforce shortages in many professional fields," he said. "We're among the world's biggest exporters and importers of doctors. This can't go on. We need to move towards self-sufficiency."
About 40 per cent of New Zealand doctors are overseas-trained.
National would also increase the number of funded GP-registrar training places from 104 to 154, Mr Ryall said.
Health Minister David Cunliffe said he would consult the Cabinet over the training board's recommendation for 100 extra places, but noted the report's comments that it was only one part of the solution.
He also announced that the Health Ministry would take over workforce planning for the whole sector, co-ordinating various agencies.
He said the Government would also look at improving retention of graduates, increasing the number of funded GP registrar places and post-graduate education for midwives.