*National Service Plan does not reflect HSE commitment to shift to Primary Care
*Increase of €30.8m will not deliver ‘decisive shift to Primary Care’
*Significant €500m transformation fund per year needed to shift to GP-led Primary Care
*Acute Hospitals still receiving most of budget increase
*Additional diagnostic and surgical services require investment
The National Association of General Practitioners has said that the HSE’s commitment to make a decisive shift to GP-led primary care is not reflected in the National Service Plan launched today. The GP representative body has compared a budget increase of €30.8m in Primary Care to an increase of €118.4m for Acute Hospitals. The organisation says that the actions of the HSE do not match the ambitions outlined in the Programme for Government.
Dr. Emmet Kerin, NAGP President, said, “Earlier this year, the Primary Care Partnership, which includes the NAGP, called for ringfencing of €500m per year, for five years, to deliver a GP-led Primary Care system that is fit for purpose. As we go into GP contract negotiations in the coming weeks, we urge the Minister to invest additional funds in Primary Care. GPs are ready, and willing, to provide a world class GP-led Primary Care system if adequately supported. To make a real impact, we need serious investment. Both GPs, and the HSE, agree that this is the right long-term approach to provide the best care to patients and the best value for money to the Government”.
We know that for every €1 spent in Primary Care, saves €5 in the rest of the Health Service. We, therefore, need to change the approach to how the problems in the health care system are addressed. An NAGP survey on current patient waiting times showed that the pressure on GP services is increasing and this is having an impact on patients. In the survey carried out this month, only 32% of GP respondents were able to provide an urgent appointment in less than three hours. This compares to 60% of surveyed GPs in October 2015.
Dr. Kerin concluded, “General Practice is under-funded and has been for nearly a decade. The outlined budgetary increase for Primary Care will not deliver the goals listed in the National Service Plan. The increased budget of €30.8m must fund all Primary Care services including physiotherapy, speech and language therapy etc. There is no specific budget provided to address the capacity and functionality of General Practice”.
While there has been a small increase in the number of GP training places in 2017, the NAGP warn it is not adequate to address the increasing shortage of GPs. The organisation urges the Minister to implement a retention and recruitment campaign to address the high level of emigration of GPs trained in Ireland. A new GP contract is urgently required to ensure newly-qualified GPs see a viable future in General Practice in Ireland.