The National Association of General Practitioners has responded to the HSE director general, Tony O’Brien’s, comments on the potential impact of pay restoration on services. The NAGP argues that the restoration of resourcing to General Practice will enhance patient care, alleviate the crisis in Secondary Care, and save money. In January, Mr. O’Brien, in his address to the Primary Care Partnership conference, recognised the need for transitional investment to resource General Practice and Primary Care and move more care into the community.

Dr. Emmet Kerin, NAGP President, said, “General Practice is at crisis point. The latest figures from the Irish Medical Council state that there are 63.1 GPs per 100,000 population, falling well below international standards of 80 GPs per 100,000. We also know that 915 GPs are set to emigrate or retire in the next five years. In the context of the current critical shortage of GPs in this country, this should be setting off alarm bells with the HSE and Department of Health. Patients will face increasing waiting times for a consultation with their GP with potentially catastrophic outcomes for their care. Negotiations on a new GMS contract must start urgently to address the untenable position in which General Practice finds itself”.

International studies show that the strength of a country’s primary care system is associated with improved population health outcomes, regardless of per capita health spend and percentage of elderly. The NAGP believe that, where possible, patients should be kept in their communities and out of hospital. If GPs, and other health and social care professionals, can deliver a high level of care at local level the number of people on trolleys can be reduced.

Dr. Kerin continued, “The Minister for Health has acknowledged that General Practice has suffered a massive reduction in funding. €980m has been taken out of general practice and we are seeing a direct impact on ED figures and patient waiting times. Disproportionate cuts in General Practice has, and will continue to, affect secondary care. This must be addressed.”

Dr. Kerin concluded, “The HSE must begin to view the resourcing of GP-led Primary Care as an investment, improving patient care with the benefit of reducing costs in Secondary Care”.

The NAGP has previously called for a reversal of the FEMPI cuts introduced in 2011 and 2013. This would provide interim relief for a service which is facing increasing pressures due to the difficulties in retaining staff and responding to the ageing population.