Health | To ask the Minister for Health the extent to which provision is being made for an adequate supply of qualified doctors is being made to compensate for general practitioner doctors who are retiring or otherwise becoming unavailable for practice
To ask the Minister for Health the extent to which provision is being made for an adequate supply of qualified doctors is being made to compensate for general practitioner doctors who are retiring or otherwise becoming unavailable for practice; the total number of practices throughout County Kildare and nationwide that are having difficulty meeting such requirements at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
GPs are self-employed practitioners and therefore may establish practices at a place of their own choosing. There is no prescribed ratio of GPs to patients and the State does not regulate the number of GPs that can set up in a town or community.
Under the GMS scheme, the HSE contracts GPs to provide medical services without charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. Currently there are 2,549 GPs contracted to provide services under the GMS Scheme.
Where a GP GMS vacancy is set to arise in a practice, the HSE is notified in advance and becomes actively involved in the recruitment process to find a replacement GP. As of the 1st of May 2022, there are 35 GMS vacancies across the country, just over 1 percent of the total number of GMS panels; there are no GP GMS vacancies in Co. Kildare.
The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice and is working to ensure patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and that general practice is sustainable in all areas into the future.
The 2019 Agreement on GP contractual reform and service development will see the Government increase annual investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) between 2019 and 2023. The Agreement provides for increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas, and for improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements. These changes and others make general practice in Ireland a more attractive career choice.
The number of GPs entering training has been increased steadily over the past number of years, rising from 120 in 2009 to 233 in 2021. Responsibility for training has transferred last year from the HSE to the Irish College of General Practitioners and an intake of 258 trainees is planned for this year, with further increases expected for future years.
The measures undertaken will see an increase in the number of GPs working in the State, improving access to GP services for patients throughout the country.
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