Wednesday, 14 September 2022
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
472. To ask the Minister for Health the plans that his Department has in place to alleviate the shortage of general practitioners in rural Ireland in cases in which practices are unable to find replacements for retiring general practitioners specifically in Galbally and Ballylanders, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44409/22]
GPs are self-employed practitioners and therefore may establish practices at a place of their own choosing. The State does not regulate the number of GPs that can set up in a town or community.
Where a vacancy arises in a practice with a GMS contract, the HSE becomes actively involved in the recruitment process to find a replacement GP. It is acknowledged that certain rural GMS vacancies can be difficult to fill; as of last month, there were 25 GMS GP vacancies, 14 of which were in rural areas. For this reason, in addition to the more general measures taken to increase the number of GPs in the State and the significant increases in investment into general practice, specific supports are in place to support GPs in rural areas.
Under the 2019 GP Agreement, the Government is increasing annual investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) between 2019 and 2023. The Agreement provides for an increase in capitation fees for GPs, additional services, improved family arrangements as well as a targeted €2 million fund to support to practices in deprived urban areas.
An enhanced supports package for rural GP practices was introduced previously to support rural GPs, these supports have been increased by 10% under the 2019 GP Agreement. In addition, practices in receipt of rural practice supports attract the maximum allowable rates for practice staff support subsidies and locum contributions for leave taking. Specific fees are also in place for dispensing doctors (who operate in rural areas), these have been increased by 28% under the Agreement.
A steady increase has been seen in the number of doctors entering GP training over recent years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 258 in 2022. The transfer of GP training from the HSE to the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) which was concluded in 2021 will allow for the introduction of a new service model for GP training in Ireland and the further expansion GP training capacity in the years ahead. The ICGP aims to have 350 training places available for new entrants per year by 2026.
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.
In relation to GP vacancies and retirements in Galbally and Ballylanders specifically, as this relates to a services matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly on this matter, as soon as possible.