Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ceisteanna (146)

Barry Cowen


146. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health the number of general practitioners receiving funding from the State; the number that is required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18227/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

General Practitioners are private contractors. There is no prescribed ratio of GPs to patients and the State does not regulate the number of General Practitioners that can set up in a town or community.

Under the provisions of the Health (Provision of General Practitioner) Act 2012, a GP can enter into a state contract to provide GP services provided he/she is on the Medical Council's Specialist Register in  General Practice, irrespective of the number of GPs that are already established in an area.

As at 1 of April 2018, there are 2,485 GPs contracted by the HSE to provide services under the GMS scheme. A further 419 GPs who do not hold GMS contracts are contracted by the HSE to provide services under the Primary Childhood Immunisation Scheme, the Health(Amendment) Act 1996, Heartwatch, the Methadone Treatment Scheme and the National Cancer Screening Service.

It should be noted that as at 1 March 2018 there were only 23 GMS panels that do not have a permanent GP in place – a vacancy rate of less than 1%.

The Health Service Capacity Review estimates a requirement of 4,970 GPs by 2031 which is an increase of 1,400 or 39% based on no changes to eligibility and current patterns of activity.

I would like to assure the Deputy of the Government's commitment to the continued development of 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. I want to ensure that existing GP services are retained and that general practice remains an attractive career option for newly-qualified GPs.

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 an enhanced supports package for rural GP practices. Separately, the State is seeking to train more GPs to provide GP services to the population. In 2009, there were 120 GP training places and in 2018 we expect to fill 194 training places, an increase of over 60% over this nine year period.  The Government is committed to further increasing this number to 259 places annually in future years.