General practice ignored by successive governments when it represents the best value to State and tax payer

350+ GPs from right across the country will gather in Molesworth Street, D2 at 2pm today to highlight that the entire GP specialty is in crisis. This is the first time that GPs have been motivated enough to leave their practices to publicly protest. During the protest they will state that patient safety and well-being is at stake, specific patient groups are being punished by cuts in GP care and more patients are being forced unnecessarily into expensive secondary care. Under the umbrella of the NAGP (National Association of General Practitioners) they believe that general practice has been completely ignored by successive governments and the subsequent emigration of young GPs and the demise of rural practices has been widespread, whereas general practice represents the best value for the State and the tax payer because it provides quality accessible care local to patients and at fraction of cost of hospital treatment. But it requires a well-trained, properly distributed workforce of GPs and investment.

There are 3,000 GPs (22% of which work part-time) in Ireland and 2,800 of these GPs have a GMS contract in a mix of group urban, group rural, single handed urban, and single handed rural practices. But Ireland has one of the lowest numbers of GPs per capita in the OECD 26 countries (at 141 GPs per 100,000 population) in comparison to Germany which has 216 per 100,000 people. An additional 500 GPs are required in order to bring Ireland in line with the OECD average.

Speaking in advance of the protest Dr Conor McGee, GP, Scariff, Co. Clare and NAGP President said “General Practice has and is being damaged every day. Newly qualified young GPs are leaving the country after being lured to Canada, Australia and New Zealand and UK instead of joining or setting up practices in Ireland. Experienced GP principals are being actively recruited by GP training schemes in the Middle East and Far East. Rural practices have been economically drained by the drastic and untargeted FEMPI cuts to the point that rural practice is no longer viable. 30% of GPs will retire in the next five years but a significant number of those in their 50s and 60s, many of whom would usually have retired by now, are unable to do so because of significant levels of debt attached to their practices.  This has and will continue to contribute to a slowing of the jobs market for young and emerging GPs.”

Additional evidence is indisputable;

  • GP Training – the annual GP trainee scheme has only 157 places but a recent survey has shown that only 25% of these current GP trainees are planning to stay in Ireland after graduation, 50% are unsure if they will stay and 12% say that they will definitely emigrate. It is also estimated that overall 47% of Irish trained GPs do not work in Ireland, which is the highest figure of all OECD countries in comparison to 6% in the UK.
  • Emigration – In a recent survey of 1,055 GPs, 50% said that they had considered emigrating in the past 12 months and 35% said that Australia would be their country of choice.

Also speaking in advance of the protest, Dr Ciara Kelly, GP, Greystones said “My fellow GP colleagues and I have taken the unprecedented step of protesting today because we firmly believe that the destruction of general practice is already impacting on vulnerable patients, undermining overall patient safety and will ultimately destroy the fabric of what works best in healthcare. We are advocating for the very best patient care in the primary care setting by advocating for general practice.”

The NAGP holds that the Government continues to alienate GPs by failing to ensure the maintenance of a safe and effective GP service with a coherent strategy for growth. The plan for free GP care to selected groups (under six’s and over 70’s) will

  • remove more private income that has up to now provided an essential GP practice support
  • result in a threefold rise in consultation rates thereby resulting in shorter consultation times and
  • result in three to five fold increase into secondary care (Emergency Departments and Acute Hospitals) as GPs will not have the time available to properly investigate and manage patient problems.

The NAGP originally called the Association of General Practitioners was established in 1987 to represent the interests of GPs and to negotiate and lobby on behalf of them at individual and group level. The NAGP is committed to best practice within the primary care sector and will strive to promote and protect the high standards already in place. Please see www.nagp.ie

Please note that there will be there will be no withdrawal of service and adequate medical cover will be in place for all patients during the course of the protest.