The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) have published their pre-budget 2017 submission. The NAGP urgently calls for an unwinding of the disproportionate FEMPI cuts introduced to general practice in 2011 and 2013. The NAGP submission contends that general practice is at crisis point and urges the Government to assign adequate resources to GPs in the upcoming budget. Read the submission here.

Mr. Chris Goodey, NAGP CEO, said, “A reversal of the FEMPI cuts in 2011 and 2013 would release €70m into general practice and would provide interim relief for a service which is facing increasing pressures due to the difficulties in retaining staff and responding to the ageing demographic”.

The NAGP submission states that it is clear that the GP sector has been expected to care for an increasing number of medical card, or GP-visit card, patients over the past 10 years. The strain of providing care to more patients with less funding is now showing in the sector.

A recent survey has shown that 31% of GPs plan to retire, or leave the profession, in the next three to five years, while 66% of GPs would not recommend the profession to their children.

Mr. Goodey, stated, “The NAGP has been highlighting the critical shortage of GPs and, again, we emphasise the urgent need to adequately resource general practice in the 2017 budget. Studies, published as recently as last week, show that the number of GPs practicing in Ireland falls well below best practice. This shortfall will only increase while general practice is seen as unattractive and unviable in this country”.

A LHM Casey McGrath report commissioned by the NAGP in 2015 estimates that 2954 GPs are currently working in Ireland. To meet the increasing demand, we would need 4264 GPs by 2021.

Mr. Goodey commented, “We need to start retaining the highly-skilled GPs that we are training and we also urgently need to start training more. We must create an attractive work environment to retain our world class GP trainees”.

The range of services provided by GPs has expanded significantly over the years. Furthermore, due to an ageing population and deprivation, the number of patients with multi-morbidities and chronic conditions has increased over time. Given the evolution and expansion of services, in particular over the past 10 years, GPs have been under increasing financial pressure. In addition to a lack of payments for a range of services, there are fundamental issues in relation to inadequate payments for locum cover for sick and annual leave. This has caused extreme stress to GPs.

The Association also highlighted its proposal to the HSE to change the purpose of the planned Primary Care Resource Centres. The NAGP has proposed that the planned centres be turned into true resource centres on the basis that diagnostics and services in the centres would now be available to all GPs and patients in the locality.

Mr. Goodey said, “This proposal would create an environment where Primary Care Teams can deliver for patients and would bring all GPs and health professionals into the same process regardless of where their practice was physically situated. A shared Primary Care Resource Centre would re-invigorate the building of Primary Care Teams, assist in creating a single integrated health system, and allow a platform that can be scaled nationally”.

In their pre-budget submission, the NAGP calls on the Government to address the crippling debt burdening GP Trainees who have graduated from Graduate Entry Medicine programmes. These students are forced to take out loans of up to €100,000 to cover their yearly tuition fees along with living costs. There are currently no supports in place to assist these future GPs and the NAGP is calling for immediate action to tackle this issue.