For Written Answer on : 21/04/2021
Question Number(s): 1956 Question Reference(s): 19411/21
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the availability of general practitioner services in the area of Midleton, County Cork is sufficient to cater for current local demand; if not, his plans to address the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
GPs are self-employed private practitioners and therefore may establish practices at a place of their own choosing. Under the GMS scheme, the HSE contracts GPs to provide medical services without charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. Where a vacancy arises in a practice with a GMS contract, the HSE becomes actively involved in the selection process to find a replacement GP. As of 1 April 2021, there are no GMS GP vacancies in Midleton, County Cork.
The Government, aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, 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/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 supports for rural GP practices.
Following agreement with GPs in 2019 on a range of service developments and reforms, the Government has committed to increasing investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) over the period 2019 and 2023.
The Agreement provides for 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 programme. There is also increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas as well as improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements.
In addition, the number of GPs entering training has increased steadily over the past number of years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 213 in 2020, with a further increase foreseen in 2021. The ICGP noted a record number of applications for the 2021 GP training programme.
I am confident that these measures will see an increase in the number of GPs working in the State, improving access to GP services for patients throughout the country.