I thank Deputy Harty. As of 1 November, there are 22 vacant general medical services, GMS, general practitioner posts nationwide. These vacancies account for less than 1% of all GMS panels. The HSE is actively recruiting to fill the vacancies referred to by the Deputy in Newmarket-on-Fergus and Macroom, and is considering available options with the local community in Milltown. I believe there is ongoing active engagement in that regard. In the case of each vacancy, a locum or other appropriate arrangement has been put in place to maintain GP services in the communities in question.
The Government is aware of the workforce issues facing general practice, including the difficulties in filling certain GMS vacancies. I assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the continued development of GP capacity, so that patients across the country have access to GP services, and that we have taken a number of measures to improve GP recruitment.
The recent agreement on GP contractual reforms, which was endorsed by 95% of GPs who participated in the consultative Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, ballot, will see an increase in expenditure on GP services of €210 million annually by 2023, providing for significant increases in capitation fees, the effective full reversal of financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, plus additional supports for rural practices and, for the first time, practices in urban areas of deprivation.
In addition, I am very encouraged to see that the number of medical graduates undertaking GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 192 filled places in 2019, with a further increase expected next year. In a recent press release, not from me but from the Irish College of General Practitioners, it stated the good news that it had received the highest ever number of applications for its 2020 GP training programme. Our job is to make sure that we keep those GPs working in communities in all parts of the country. I believe the changes to the contract are attractive in that regard. I am confident that these measures help make general practice more sustainable and a more attractive career option for doctors. I am aware there is ongoing work in each of the three locations referenced by the Deputy. The HSE is very engaged in trying to find a full and sustainable solution in each of these regards and it has provided locum cover in the interim.