Dr Emmet Kerin, President of the NAGP, commented: In recent days we have Minister Varadkar rightly acknowledging the manpower crisis in General Practice and the overload from the under sixes. At the same time the Tánaiste is insistent free GP care will materialise.

“This shows a detached and unrealistic view of health care direction by the coalition partners. I would question the ability of overwhelmed GPs that provide the service to deliver on their promises.”

“We know that 900 GPs are planning to retire or emigrate in the next five years so solid investment in primary care and general practice is required, not promises that will fail to be kept,” added Dr Kerin.

“Rather than train GPs for export we need to address the well-documented reasons why so many of our newly trained GPs choose to leave this country, and address this under-resourcing as a matter of urgency.”

Universal free GP care remains on the agenda for many parties, yet the current crisis in general practice shows no sign of abating. Health Minister Leo Varadkar was quoted as saying this week that the country would need an additional 500 GPs “just to stand still”, while Environment Minister Alan Kelly stated that finding additional GPs is “absolutely critical”.

“This is no surprise to those working within general practice – at the NAGPs’ inaugural AGM two years ago we stated that an additional 500 GPs would be needed to sustain primary care services across Ireland,” NAGP Chair of Communications Dr Liam Glynn commented.

Comments from the political parties about the need for additional training places are misguided as increasing training places, although very necessary, will be just one part of the solution, he added. The urgency should be about creating an environment where GPs can remain in and wish to return to Ireland to work.

At the Association’s recent AGM, a motion was passed calling on the Department of Health and HSE to address the manpower crisis in general practice.
Dr Glynn echoed comments made at the AGM that general practice is now akin to a “leaky bucket” – he urged the political parties to work on “plugging the holes rather than turning on the taps”.