Doctors urge €2.5bn investment in GP services

Group ready for ‘confrontation’ as it seeks remedy to ‘miscalculation’ of cuts

The National Association of General Practitioners says general practice is in crisis and needs to be rescued urgently for the sake of the profession and in the best interests of patients. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The National Association of General Practitioners says general practice is in crisis and needs to be rescued urgently for the sake of the profession and in the best interests of patients. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

The National Association of General Practitioners has called for the ring-fenced investment of €2.5 billion in primary care over the next five years.

The group says general practice is in crisis and needs to be rescued urgently for the sake of the profession and in the best interests of patients.

Government cuts in funding during the recession have proven to be a “historical miscalculation,” chairman Dr Andy Jordan told the group’s annual general meeting in Maynooth.

“Now we have hospital wards full of patients. We have the highest per capita nursing home population in the OECD. We have 560,000 outpatients on waiting lists. We have 80,000 patients on surgical waiting lists. Hardly any elective work is being done in our public hospitals as beds are being filled by emergency departments. We have no statutory home care system in place.”

The association says its members have suffered cuts of up to 38 per cent under the Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Service) legislation introduced in 2012, at a time when medical card coverage has increased to almost half the population.

Meanwhile, young GPs were fleeing and did not see general practice in Ireland as a viable career, Dr Jordan told delegates. “There is no vision. There is no plan. There is a lot of talk.”

Medical cards

While talks with Government on a new GP contract are ongoing, Monaghan GP Dr Shane Corr warned that “confrontation is coming” and doctors should be ready for it.

Dr Corr said GPs had “bottled” their opposition to the extension of medical cards to under-6s before it was introduced. “We rolled over and worked harder because we don’t like confrontation. But it is coming and we needed to be prepared for it.”

“They can’t do anything without us. We shouldn’t be afraid of saying no,” said association chief executive Chris Goodey.

The conference passed a motion calling for the reversal of Fempi cuts in advance of any agreement on a new GP contract.

GPs also called for doctors working in online telemedicine services to be in active general practice and said engagement should be with patients in their own practice only.

Association president Emmet Kerins said many doctors in such services were putting themselves forward as active GPs when in fact they were “moonlighting”.