Only 72 hours ago, the Director General of the HSE stated in a national newspaper, that the HSE is on “death row” and that there is “no plan, no money and no vision for healthcare in Ireland”. Judging by today’s HSE Service Plan for 2016, he clearly wasn’t overstating the issues. The 2016 Plan lacks any real cohesive planning, with once again, minimal money allocated to Primary Care and above all, no clear collective understanding of what patients need from our healthcare system. Chris Goodey, the CEO of the NAGP stated ‘’We need to keep patients out of hospitals and treated in their community in a primary care setting’’.

General Practice receives less than 2.5% of the health budget annually, leading to patients waiting 34 hours for a routine appointment to see their GP. Do we need 7-day waiting times for a GP visit, along with waiting days on a hospital trolley, before someone realises our current health service is non-operational?

If the HSE really wants to deliver quality healthcare, within budget, it needs to follow global best practice and move to a model that is Primary Care led, as is the case in countries that are known to have the best healthcare service.

While the Irish system continues to lead with a far more expensive and inefficient secondary care led system, the acknowledgment by the HSE that transferring some minor surgeries to GPs and other primary care specialists has merit. Admittedly, this is a tiny step forward – 10,000 cases could be completed by our 3,000 GPs in the first couple of hours on the first day of surgery in 2016.

The extension of direct access for GPs to be able to perform ultrasounds and x-rays, building on the HSE’s 2015 pilot initiative, is to be welcomed as it will aid patients and ultimately save money.

The extension of access to GP care without fees to all children aged 6 to 11 years is an illogical step in an evidently cash-strapped health system. Priority of access should be given to acutely ill patients, rather than those acknowledged as least likely to need treatment.