Prof Garry Courtney, Clinical Lead of the HSE National Acute Medicine Programme, has called for the introduction of financial incentives for GPs to encourage a flow and reverse flow system between hospitals and primary care.

Addressing the NAGP AGM in Limerick today, Prof Courtney said that GPs should be financially rewarded for taking over the care of patients who are discharged out of hospital back into the community. Similarly, he said, GPs should be rewarded for providing care which averts the requirement for hospitalisation in the first place.

The hospital sector is under serious pressure and the only way to forward is to create a cohesive health care system with integrated care models and increased collaboration between primary and secondary care.

“We have to build confidence and cooperation between GPs and hospitals. Costs and rewards need to be fairly apportioned. If we don’t get GPs and hospitals to come together, nothing is going to change,” Prof Courtney said.

NAGP CEO Chris Goodey said it is reassuring to see that an eminent doctor such as Prof Courtney recognised that funding continues to be disproportionately distributed between primary and secondary care and that the only solution for patients to receive equitable cost-effective care is to invest in general practice.

Newly appointed NAGP Secretary, Dr Keith Swanick said: “It is widely accepted that general practice is the cornerstone of medicine in Ireland. By cutting resources to general practice you fundamentally destabilise the medical system as a whole, jeopardise the unique doctor-patient relationship which characterises general practice and endanger patient welfare.”

“The fact remains that primary care receives only 2.8% of the total health spend compared with 8.1% in the UK. In total €160million has been slashed from the general practice budget since 2010. The problems being seen in secondary care like overcrowded emergency departments and prolonged waiting times for out-patients appointments, will never be rectified until primary care is adequately resourced. The future of medicine lies in the local community. Let’s empower patients and take back control of the one aspect of the health system which actually has been proven to work.”

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