People spend more money insuring their hamster than the Government pays GPs to provide 24-7 medical care to patients, the AGM of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) heard this morning.

GPs at the conference said they have experienced the busiest January in recent history and are struggling to meet demand in light of drastic cuts to the sector since 2008.

“It is bizarre that GPs are paid less than it costs to insure a pet for a year,” Outgoing NAGP President Dr Conor McGee said. “Literally overnight, the Government cut funding to general practice by 38 per cent under the Financial Emergency Measure in Public Interest (FEMPI) Act, but I guarantee that no GP in the country is giving 38% less of a service. That situation is simply not sustainable.”

“The challenges occurring here in health care delivery are not unique to Ireland. Other health care systems are experiencing similar issues. The difference is that other countries have recognised that the solution to hospital overcrowding is to limit the number of people going into hospital and getting those who have been admitted out as quickly as possible. The only way to do that is through community-based health services. International success stories have centred around GP-led, Government-funded initiatives,” Dr McGee said.

“GPs want to participate in resolving the problems we are experiencing in the health system. We have solutions, solutions that have been proven to work internationally, but whatever way we turn, barriers are being put in our way. If Government is serious about creating a high-quality, efficient, equitable health system, it needs to be work with GPs and exploit the immense enthusiasm and range of skills available in general practice.”

The NAGP 2016 AGM is taking place today (Saturday January 30) in the Glenroyal Hotel, Maynooth.

The NAGP is Ireland’s largest representative body for general practitioners, with more than 1,487 members. See www.nagp.ie.