Written answers

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Department of Health

General Practitioner Services

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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181. To ask the Minister for Health if he will review a report (detail supplied); if his attention has been drawn to this issue; the actions he is taking on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15192/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, including changing demographics, the number of GPs nearing retirement and the difficulties in filling a small number of GMS vacancies 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.

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 funding of €2 million will also be set aside to provide additional support to practices in deprived urban areas.

Several efforts to increase the number of practising GPs have been undertaken in recent years. The number of entrants to GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 233 in 2021, with further increases planned. 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.

Importantly, 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. Work on the review is to commence this year. The review will examine the broad range of issues affecting general practice and will set out measures necessary to deliver a sustainable service into the future.

Currently, 2,542 GPs are contracted by the HSE to provide services to GMS patients. As of 1st March, 32 GMS panels (or just over 1%) are vacant, including one panel in Monaghan. This vacancy was advertised in last round, but regrettably no suitable applicant was found. The position will be advertised again shortly. In the meantime, the HSE will continue to provide locum cover thereby ensuring a GP service will continue to be provided to the affected patients.


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