Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (378)

Louise O'Reilly


378. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the number of general practitioners and practice nurses he is making provision for on a three-year timeframe (details supplied). [26276/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

GPs play a crucial role in the provision of primary care services.  The number of GPs on the specialist register continues to increase – up from 2,270 in 2010 to 3,723 as of 01 January 2019 and the number of GPs with a GMS contract has also risen from 2,098 in 2008 to 2,504 as at 01 June 2019.

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, up from 120 training places in 2009 to 183 places offered in 2019.

The Deputy will be aware of the recently concluded Agreement with GPs on contractual reform. In return for cooperation with a wide range of service developments and reforms, the Government will increase investment in general practice by approximately 40% (or €210 million) over the next 4 years.

This will see significant increases in capitation fees for GPs who participate in the reform programme and the introduction of new fees and subsidies for additional services such as the chronic disease management programme. There will also be increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas. Improvements in the maternity and paternity leave arrangements have also been agreed, in recognition of the need to ensure that general practice is compatible with doctors’ family friendly commitments.  The Agreement also provides for additional Practice Nurse hours equating to 247 WTE Practice Nurses to facilitate the roll-out of the chronic disease programme.

I am confident that these new measures will benefit patients and help make general practice more sustainable and a more attractive career option for doctors.