Labour's Health spokesperson David Clark says more needs to be done to encourage medical professionals to work in rural areas.

Mr Clark was in Whanganui and Patea on Wednesday where he attended public meetings and spoke with the Patea & District Community Medical Trust.

Patea has been in the health spotlight after losing its last GP and having to rely on a virtual pop-up medical clinic while it finds a new GP.

"People there are deeply concerned that they can't access the health care you'd kind of expect," the Dunedin North MP told the Chronicle.


Mr Clark said it was not uncommon for rural areas to struggle to find GPs.

"There's a lack of GPs generally. Nearly half the GP workforce is due to retire in the next 10 years so it's only going to get worse."

People with a connection to rural areas would be more likely to work in them and that needed to be fostered, he said.

Mr Clark suggested recruiting people from rural areas, making people do part of their general medical training in rural areas and making sure people had opportunities for career advancement while remaining in a rural location.

"The current model rewards people who return to the centres and the big outfits."

He said the health sector as a whole needed more funding and that Labour had pledged $8 billion more than is currently being spent over the next four years.

"Obviously we want to make sure that is well spent because we want extra services delivered with it.

"But we're a first world country and as a portion of our economy, under this government health spending has been dropping.

"Most countries as they get wealthier spend more money on health services, partly because health services go up in price, but partly because if you can afford them you buy them.

"Health is wealth. If you don't have health you don't have anything."