GPs warn new community services not possible unless cuts reversed
Simon Harris to unveil €810m investment in primary care facilities over next 10 years
Minister for Health Simon Harris said investment in primary care is key to building a better health service. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Family doctors have warned they will not be in a position to provide additional services for patients in the community – a key element of the Government’s overall healthcare reforms – unless moves are made to reverse financial cuts imposed following the financial crash.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said as a result of funding cuts patient services were not capable of being maintained, let alone expanded.
The IMO claims that funding for general practice had been cut by 38 per cent in recent years. It is to launch a campaign this week aimed at raising awareness amongst politicians and patients on the impact of the cutbacks imposed under financial emergency legislation (Fempi) and the consequences for the future of the GP service if these are not reversed.
The IMO warning comes ahead of the Minister for Health Simon Harris planned announcement on Monday of an €810 million investment in primary care facilities as part of the Government’s new capital plan.
The Minister will officially open two new primary care centres on Monday, in Kilcock, Co Kildare and Coolock in Dublin – the first public /private partnership investment in the health service. These will offer a range of primary care services including GP and nurse services, home help, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy.
The Government’s new Sláintecare health reform programme as well as its plans to provide an additional 2,600 hospital beds are largely underpinned by moves to transfer services into primary care.
A recent capacity review argued that if the existing hospital-centric model of care was continued, more than 7,000 additional hospitals beds would be needed in future.
The IMO urged the Government to reverse the Fempi cuts to stabilise existing GP services; provide resources for new services in general practice such as chronic disease management and develop a coherent roadmap to deal with the manpower crisis in general practice.
However, he said “ unfortunately while we are all agreed on the rationale and the need for reform there is little evidence that the investment required is forthcoming”.
“GPs can and want to do more but in an environment where cuts as a result of austerity are not reversed it is difficult to see how GPs will be in a position to take on new work. Government has already committed to and commenced the roll back of the Fempi cuts to other groups including all public servants and it is critical that the GP service is treated equitably.”
Mr Harris said investment in primary care is key to building a better health service. “We need to ensure that more people are treated close to home, in the communities where they live. That is why Project Ireland 2040, our capital spending plan for the next 10 years, provides €810 million to construct additional primary care facilities, including community diagnostics.
“Significant investment in primary care is a key component of our solid, ambitious plan to build a better health service for the future. This must be done through the combination of this significant capital investment programme, alongside the implementation of the Sláintecare reforms, and engagement with GPs on the unwinding of Fempi and a new GP contract.”