Written answers

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Department of Health

General Practitioner Services Provision

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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614. To ask the Minister for Health the measures he plans to implement in respect of the difficulties in the recruitment and retention of general practitioners, with particular reference to rural practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2935/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government is aware of the workforce issues facing general practice, including those affecting rural areas, and has implemented a range of measures in recent years to improve recruitment and retention in general practice. 

These include changes to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to accommodate more flexible/shared GMS GP contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme, allowing GPs to hold GMS contracts until their 72nd birthday. Enhanced supports for rural GP practices have also been introduced. 

In addition, the number of medical graduates undertaking GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 192 filled places in 2019. There will be a further increase in training places available this year with 217 places available.  It is hoped that final issues can be resolved so that the transfer of responsibility for training from the HSE the Irish College of General Practitioners can take place in 2020 and this will allow for a further expansion in the number of training places in future years.

The Agreement reached in 2019 on GP contractual reforms and service developments will see an increase in expenditure on GP services of €210 million annually by 2023, providing significant increases in capitation fees for participating GPs, and increases in supports for rural practices and practices in urban areas of deprivation.

Improved family friendly arrangements are an important feature of the revised contractual arrangements, with an increase in the locum rate for maternity and paternity cover, and an increase in the paternity leave allowance from 3 days to 2 weeks. This is in recognition of the need to ensure that general practice is compatible with doctors’ family commitments. 

The Agreement also includes a commitment to a strategic review of GP services which is intended to examine how best to ensure the provision of GP services in Ireland for the future.  This review will get underway in 2020.

I am confident that these measures will help make general practice more sustainable and a more attractice career option for doctors.


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