Chris Goodey
CEO of the National Association of General Practitioners

This is the first edition of my regular blog aimed at keeping you informed about what is going on in the world of health and political activism from the NAGP’s perspective.

I will attempt to review relevant health stories that have appeared in the media and keep you updated on the NAGP’s lobbying, strategies and media activities.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. Let’s make sure that 2014 is the year that general practice fights back.

I am delighted to announce that having taken into account the financial pressures of general practice and to encourage membership, it was agreed at the AGM that the annual subscription to the NAGP would be reduced to €350 per annum.

Those who have already paid the full €650 or the previous group membership rate will not have to pay again until 2016.

This week, the media has been full of health stories on everything from salary top-ups in our hospitals and health institutions to the revelation by the WHO that 135 million people will be suffering with dementia by 2050. Some of these stories have been well placed to deflect from the impending National Service Plan, which will be strategically published on the 17th of December (37 days late, by the way).

Our AGM on November 23rd was hugely successful and attended by 85 delegates who enjoyed talks from Dr Ed Walsh, Dr Tom O’Connor, Dr Ronan Canavan, Dr Steve Davies, and Dr Chris Poole.

I was invited to write an opinion piece in The Irish Times on the Friday prior to our AGM (November 22nd) and I believe this set the stage for what turned into an extremely interesting weekend of debate and commentary. Click here to read the article

A stream of media commentary on the back of our AGM continued into the last days of November. In an interview with Pat Kenny on NewsTalk, our keynote speaker Dr Edward Walsh clearly outlined that despite being savagely underfunded, general practice was the most cost-effective part of the entire health service. He highlighted that only three per cent of the entire health spend was allocated to general practice.

This was followed by Dr Aifric Boylan on Today with Sean O’Rourke on Radio 1 the following day explaining that our GP trainees were leaving in their droves because they saw no future as GPs in Ireland. She warned that if we did not do something now, we would lose our entire GP infrastructure and the damage would be irreparable.

At our AGM, we outlined our strategy for the first six months of 2014. We explained that the NAGP would concentrate on campaigning for a reversal of the 2013 FEMPI cut and ensuring there will be no future cuts.

We outlined how we will be lobbying the 44 county councils throughout Ireland asking them to support the recent Kerry County Council motion, which clearly calls for a complete reversal of the last FEMPI cut.

We will be engaging with 4,000 local and European election candidates asking them to support their local GPs and to state clearly on their campaign literature that they support their general practitioners and are adamantly opposed to the dismantling of general practice.

shane-ross-december-2013This week I met with Independent TD for South Dublin, Deputy Shane Ross who accepted that general practice was underfunded. I pressed for his support to ensure he would endorse our position regarding “NO MORE FEMPI CUTS”.

We have also provided him with documentation allowing him to make an informed decision in relation to supporting our campaign that more funding needs to be allocated to general practice and in accepting that general practice is officially in crisis.

 

regina-doherty-december-2013 On Thursday last (December 5th), Dr Andy Jordan and myself met with Deputy Regina Doherty Fine Gael TD for Meath East and Deputy Billy Kelleher, Fianna Faíl spokesperson on health. We even managed to snatch a few moments with Minister Reilly.

Deputy Doherty was genuinely interested in our position and we spent almost two hours outlining to her the very current issues that are affecting general practice right now. This was very useful as she works closely with Minister Reilly and I am happy to report that following our discussion ,she has a far better understanding of general practice than she did previously.

This was our fourth encounter with Deputy Kelleher who obviously has a great insight into the issues surrounding general practice and primary care. He assured us that our campaign calling on European and local candidates to support general practice would be fully supported by Fianna Fail.

  • Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to wish our colleagues in the IMO the full support of the NAGP in their endeavours in fighting the Competition Authority.
  • I would like to emphasise that we are both fighting for the same cause.
  • It is essential we provide no platform for a divide and conquer tactic by James Reilly.
  • The aim of all our activities must be to create and promote awareness of the plight of general practice and to ensure that our issues stay at the top of the political agenda.

I believe both organisations have done an outstanding job in the last six months. In 2014 it will be essential that we continue to keep the plight of general practice at the forefront of the public mind.

I believe, as two organisations working together, we have a real opportunity to make a difference and when entering negotiations, (which I have been assured will happen in the early part of next year), general practice will be in a position of strength.