The Government is aware of the workforce issues facing general practice, including the difficulties in filling certain GMS vacancies. I would like to assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the continued development of GP capacity to ensure that patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and has taken a number of measures to improve GP recruitment.
The recent Agreement on GP contractual reforms will see an increase in expenditure on GP services of €210 million annually by 2023, providing significant increases in capitation fees for participating GPs, and increases in supports for rural practices and practices in urban areas of deprivation.
Improved family friendly arrangements are an important feature of the revised contractual arrangements, with an increase in the locum rate for maternity and paternity cover, and an increase in the paternity leave allowance from 3 days to 2 weeks. This is in recognition of the need to ensure that general practice is compatible with doctors’ family commitments.
In addition, 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, the Irish College of General Practitioners stated it had received the highest ever number of applications for its 2020 GP training programme.
I am confident that the measures outlined in the Agreement with GPs on contractual reform and service developments will make general practice more sustainable and a more attractive career option for doctors, thus increasing GP capacity and helping to ensure that all patients have access to GP services.
In relation to the availability of GP services in Carlow and Kilkenny, as this is an operational issue I have asked the HSE to reply to the directly to the Deputy in relation to this issue.