Where a medical card or GP visit card holder experiences difficulty in finding a GP to accept him/her as a patient, or where the person has been removed from another GP's list or refused entry onto a GP's list, the HSE has the power to assign that person to a GP's GMS patient list.
People who do not hold a medical card or GP visit card access GP services on a private basis and can make enquiries directly to any GP practice they wish to register with.
GPs are private contractors and it is a matter for each individual GP to decide whether to accept additional private patients. In some instances GP practices have a full list of patients and cannot take on new patients. If this happens, patients should contact other GP practices in their area. While I have no role in relation to such matters, I would expect clinicians to consider the importance of patients having access to a GP service close to home when deciding whether or not to accept private patients.
The Government is committed to increasing GP capacity to ensure that patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and that general practice is sustainable in all areas into the future. Efforts undertaken in recent years to increase the number of practising GPs 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, as well as the introduction of enhanced supports for rural GP practices.
In addition 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.
The 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.