Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
205. To ask the Minister for Health the action his Department is taking to address the problem of poor general practitioner coverage in areas of disadvantage; his views on the adequacy of the current practice supports for premises in this regard: the progress in introducing salaried general practitioners as a means of addressing the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37360/20]
The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, including the limited access to GP services in certain areas, and has implemented a number of measures 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. Supports for rural GP practices have been enhanced, while the Agreement also includes increased support for GPs working in disadvantaged urban areas.
The 2019 Agreement on GP contractual reforms will see the Government increase investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) between 2019 and 2023, providing for significant increases in capitation fees for GPs who participate in the reform programme and the introduction of new fees and subsidies for additional services such as the chronic disease programme.
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.
In addition, the number of GPs entering training has been increased steadily over the past ten years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 214 in 2020, with a further increase foreseen in 2021.
I believe that these measures and supports will see a needed increase in the number of GPs working in the State, improving access to GP services for patients throughout the country.
GPs are private practitioners who hold contracts with the HSE to provide services under various public health schemes; there are no plans at present to directly employ general practitioners. The 2019 GP Agreement includes a commitment to undertake a strategic review of GP services within the lifetime of the Agreement, to examine how best to ensure the provision of GP services in Ireland for the future. The outcome of this review will inform future contractual changes, with preparatory work for the review having begun this year.