Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (587)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

587. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he is concerned about the number of doctors currently entering general practice; the numbers that have entered general practice in each of the years 2010 to 2013, inclusive; the strategies he and his Department are employing to ensure that the numbers entering general practice are sufficient to meet the needs of our growing population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12179/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The OECD Health Data 2013 shows the average number of General Practitioners (GPs) per 1,000 population across OECD countries in 2011 was approximately 0.70. It also shows that Ireland had approximately 0.72 GPs per 1,000 population in 2011. It should be noted that figures for some countries exclude trainees, while others (including Ireland) include all registered GPs.

On 31st December 2013, 2,840 medical practitioners held registration as trained Specialists in the specialty of General Practice on the Specialist Division of the Medical Council's Register of Medical Practitioners. This compares with 2,731 at 31st December 2012; 2,562 at 31st December 2011; and 2,270 at 31st December 2010. Holding registration does not necessarily mean that the medical practitioner is in active practice. On 31 December 2013, there were 2,413 GPs contracted to provide services under the General Medical Services Scheme. This compares with 2,368 on 31 December 2012; 2,277 on 31 December 2011; and 2,258 on 31 December 2010.

There are currently 157 GP training places per year. The HSE and the Irish College of General Practitioners are currently in discussions about the potential to increase this number.

In July last year, my colleague Dr James Reilly, Minister for Health, established a Working Group, chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, to carry out a Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structure. The Working Group will examine and make high-level recommendations relating to training and career pathways for doctors with a view to improving graduate retention in the public health system, planning for future service needs, and realising maximum benefit from investment in medical education and training. Professor MacCraith has been asked to furnish the Group's final report by the end of June 2014.

The HSE is currently engaged in a medical workforce planning project, which will include a workforce plan for GPs. When this work has been completed, it will assist in identifying GP requirements.