The Government is aware of workforce issues 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 GMS contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme allowing GPs to hold GMS contracts until their 72nd birthday. An enhanced support package for rural practices has also been introduced with improved qualifying criteria and an increased financial allowance of €20,000 per annum. 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 the 2016 measures. In addition, GP training places have been increased from 120 in 2009 to 193 filled in 2018.
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 as the established GP representative body 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.
The State’s negotiating team is keen to bring matters to a conclusion; however, any agreement must substantially benefit patients and provide value for money for the taxpayer.