Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Questions (219)

Bernard Durkan


219. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the action he has taken or can take to ensure the availability of a ready supply of general practice doctors nationally in both urban and rural settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12621/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is aware of workforce issues generally facing general practice, including the influence of demographic factors, and has implemented a number of measures to improve recruitment and retention in general practice.

These include changes to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to accommodate more flexible/shared GMS/GP contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme, allowing GPs to hold GMS contracts until their 72nd birthday. Enhanced supports for rural GP practices have also been introduced. 257 GP practice units encompassing 347 individual GPs are now in receipt of financial supports under this framework, a significant increase on the 167 GPs who received a rural practice allowance prior to the introduction of this measure. These steps should help to address the future demand for GPs by enticing GPs who may have ceased practicing for family or other reasons back into the workforce, facilitating GPs to work past the standard retirement age and encouraging more GPs to work in rural areas.

There has been a huge expansion in the number of training places on GP training programmes in recent years. In 2009, there were 120 GP training places available and in 2018 193 places were filled, an increase of around 60% over this nine year period.

It is acknowledged that there are many challenges in general practice. That is why Government remains committed to engaging with GP representatives on the development of a package of measures and reforms to modernise the current GMS contract.

Talks between the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation are continuing. Agreement on the delivery of these service improvements and contractual reforms has the potential to facilitate a substantial increase in the resourcing of general practice on a multiannual basis.