Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
363. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to introduce a scheme to address the problem with replacing general practitioners in County Clare in which some general practitioners are retiring due to lack of housing and services available in many areas given there is no incentive for new general practitioners to relocate to areas in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18024/21]
GPs are self-employed private practitioners and therefore may establish practices at a place of their own choosing. Under the GMS scheme, the HSE contracts GPs to provide medical services without charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. Where a vacancy arises in a practice with a GMS contract, the HSE becomes actively involved in the selection process to find a replacement GP. As of 1 March 2021, there are no GMS GP vacancies in County Clare.
The Government, aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, 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 as well as the introduction of supports for rural GP practices.
Following agreement with GPs in 2019 on a range of service developments and reforms, the Government has committed to increasing investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) over the period 2019 and 2023.
The Agreement provides 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. There is also increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas as well as improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements.
In addition, the number of GPs entering training has increased steadily over the past number of years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 214 in 2020, with a further increase foreseen in 2021. The ICGP noted a record number of applications for the 2021 GP training programme.
I am confident that these measures will see an increase in the number of GPs working in the State, improving access to GP services for patients throughout the country.