Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
595. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to recent data provided by a body (details supplied); the measures he proposes to take to ensure sufficient general practitioner capacity in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62842/21]
The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, including the limited access to GP services in certain areas. We are working to ensure patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and that general practice is sustainable in all areas into the future.
GPs are self-employed 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.
Several efforts to increase the number of practicing GPs have been undertaken in recent years. The number of entrants to GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 233 this year, with large increases made in recent years. Further increases are expected as responsibility for training has transferred from the HSE to the Irish College of General Practitioners. Changes have been made to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to facilitate more flexible/shared GMS contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme. An enhanced supports package for rural GP practices was also introduced.
Recent developments in relation to general practice, in particular the 2019 Agreement on Contractual Reform and Service Development, have helped to re-establish general practice in Ireland as an attractive career choice. The additional investment, which will amount to €210 million annually once the Agreement is fully implemented, provides for an increase in capitation fees, improved maternity and paternity arrangements as well as enhanced supports for rural practices. In addition, targeted on-going funding of €2 million will also be set aside to provide additional support to practices in deprived urban areas. The wider reforms in the health service will also help to provide an atmosphere in which the practice of medicine in Ireland will remain attractive. The additional investment in general practice provides a sound basis for ensuring that GPs have access to a credible and rewarding career path in Ireland.