General Practitioners contracted under the General Medical Services Scheme must make suitable arrangements to enable contact to be made with them, or a locum/deputy, for emergencies outside normal practice hours. While there is no obligation on GPs to participate in GP out-of-hours cooperatives as a means of meeting the contractual requirement, such services have been developed and expanded over time and are now an essential part of our primary care services helping to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, urgent care needs are met in the primary care setting.
In the Mid West region, the out-of-hours arrangements are discharged through Shannon Doc, a not-for-profit GP cooperative, which is funded by the HSE. Shannon Doc has recently announced that due to a difficulty in attracting GPs, and in particular locum cover, it is no longer able to maintain its existing service across all its centres.
Following discussions with Shannon Doc, the HSE, in order to ensure the sustainability of the service, accepted a proposal from the cooperative to changes in the provision of the service. The most significant changes relate to part of East and West Clare, essentially affecting Ennistymon, Kilrush, and Killaloe with minor changes in terms of operating hours in two locations in North Tipperary.
The recent changes to the Shannondoc out-of-hours services will be subject to a three-monthly review and their impact will be closely monitored and evaluated by the HSE.