Written answers

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Department of Health

General Practitioner Services

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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166. To ask the Minister for Health if he will restore the general practitioner distance coding rural practice allowance. [48729/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Between 2009 and 2013, a number of reductions were applied under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 (FEMPI) to the fees and allowances paid to healthcare professionals, including GPs who provide services under the GMS scheme.

The “distance code” was removed as a factor in calculating GP fees and allowances in 2010. Under the previous arrangements, certain fees payable to GPs such as capitation and out of hours fees varied according to a patient's age, gender and distance of their residence from the GP's surgery.

There are no plans to reintroduce the “distance code. However, 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 measures include an increase in investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) between 2019 and 2023 under the terms of the 2019 GMS GP Agreement. The Agreement provides for increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas, and for improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements. In addition, the number of GPs entering training has been increased steadily over the past ten years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 233 in 2021, with plans for further increases in future years.

The additional funding will put general practice on a much more sustainable footing and will help make general practice more rewarding and a more attractive career option for doctors. Overall, 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.


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