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Health Committee

Over 1,600 GPs need to be hired before 2028 as concern grows over shortage

There are currently an average of 0.69 GPs per 1,000 population, when it should be between 1.02 and 1.1.

THE OIREACHTAS HEALTH Committee has heard that there is a significant shortage of GPs in Ireland and that over 1,600 more will need to be recruited to meet population needs by 2028.

Both the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) attended the committee this morning and detailed how there were capacity issues within General Practice.

Speaking to the committee, Dr Val Moran, the head of GP Industrial Relations at the IMO, said that there are currently around 3,500 GPs in Ireland at present and that between 1,260 and 1,660 new GPs would need to be recruited by 2028 to meet both the needs of population growth, and the growing number of people aged over 65.

This figure becomes higher, according to the ICGP, when existing GP requirements are factored in, with the college estimating that over 2,000 will be needed.

Moran added that there is currently an average of 0.69 GPs per 1,000 population where an average of between 1.02 and 1.1 per 1,000 population is needed.

“Ireland has 29% fewer GPs per head than the UK, and existing GPs are seeing increased workload and demand,” said Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, Medical Director of the ICGP.

This is also not uniform, with rural areas having a lower ratio of GPs per 1,000 population.

“Some areas of the country have a much lower ratio of GPs per 1000 population. There’s numerous studies to show that the greater number of GPs per head of population, the better the health outcomes, including lower rates of overall causes of mortality,” said Moran.

Capacity issues within the sector are also being driven by internal demographic shifts, with Moran estimating that one-fifth of GPs are set to retire in the coming years.

“The demographic trends in general practice, no more than the rest of the population, are stark, with a growing proportion of GPs over 60.

“One-fifth of GPs are due to retire over the coming years.”

This figure is estimated to be over 700, according to the ICGP.

Burnout and the inability to take leave or sick leave was also raised by Moran, who said that GPs, particularly in rural areas are unable to access locums to cover them while they are out.

Moran called for the political system to address these capacity issues now, but said that it would not be a quick fix.

“There’s no one single quick fix and the suite of measures that need to be taken and addressing the problem will require significant and ongoing funding. The time to plan and invest was probably 10 years ago, but the next best time is now.”

New GPs

The committee heard that newly trained GPs facing obstacles to establishing practices, due to the high costs associated with it, including funding premises, IT and medical equipment.

“There’s significant financial cost that has to be incurred, and many younger GPs are just not in a position to take on that risk,” said Moran.

The IMO called for additional government supports to be made available to young GPs, including tax reliefs to help buy equipment and fund premises.

They also called for new partnership support funding, that would allow older GPs to take younger GPs in as assistants and then enter into a succession arrangement to take over a practice on a phased basis.

Currently, the ICGP are training 846 trainee GPs as part of a four-year National GP Training Programme.

The college have said that they are currently working with the HSE to increase the amount of training places available on a yearly basis, with 258 spots in 2022. The ICGP have said that they intend to reach 350 spaces by 2026.

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