Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services Provision
628. To ask the Minister for Health the status of the measures he is taking to address the lack of access to general practitioner services in rural locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2977/20]
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. Enhanced supports for rural GP practices have been introduced, and have been increased under the 2019 Agreement between the Department of Health, the HSE, and the IMO.
Other measures 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.
In addition, the number of medical graduates undertaking GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 192 filled places in 2019. 217 training places are available for 2020, and the number of doctors applying to the training scheme commencing in 2020 is the highest on record at 461.
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 another 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.
I am confident that these measures will help make general practice more sustainable and a more attractive career option for doctors.