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Written Answers - General Practitioner Services

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 38.  Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty  asked the Minister for Health Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly  the action he will take to address the general practitioner shortage; and the need for further GP training places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16275/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Róisín Shortall): Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Separate reports in 2009 by FÁS, ESRI and the Competition Authority and in 2010 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children referred to the GP manpower issue and stated that 120 training places per year were not sufficient to meet the demands of a growing and ageing population. They recommended that the number of GP training places be increased to 150. In July 2010, the number of GP training places increased to 157. The Department commissioned research in 2011 to develop a model of demand for and supply of GP and practice nurse services. The outcome is a functional and adaptable excel model rather than any specific set of findings. The Universal Primary Care Project Team will make use of this model in the course of its work.

The EU/IMF programme made provision for the removal of restrictions to trade and competition in sheltered sectors, including eliminating restrictions on the number of GPs qualifying and removing restrictions on GPs wishing to treat public patients. In relation to the number of GPs qualifying, the HSE and ICGP have reached agreement on an alternative route to specialist registration for doctors who have extensive experience in General Practice, but who lack some component of training to become eligible for specialist registration as a General Practitioner. Details of this “practice based assessment model” were published on the ICGP website in September 2011. It is anticipated that applications will be sought from interested doctors in Autumn 2012. In addition, consideration is being given to a potential “fast track” training programme for doctors who have already gained some of the required hospital rotation experience through General Professional Training and who now wish to become GPs, but do not have access to GP Specialist training. No such programme has existed in Ireland but the HSE is working with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) to develop such a training programme.

In relation to the EU/IMF programme provision for the removal of restrictions on GPs wishing to treat public patients, the Health (Provision of General Practitioner Services) Act 2012, which came into effect on 12 March 2012, eliminates restrictions on fully qualified and trained GPs wishing to obtain contracts to treat public patients under the GMS contract. This legislation will encourage more young GPs to remain in Ireland and to establish their practice here and will make it more attractive for GPs to move here from overseas. It will also encourage competition among GPs at a time when many fee paying patients have less money at their disposal.

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