Lack of doctors in North Lee area of Cork leading to 'crisis' in GP workforce

Lack of doctors in North Lee area of Cork leading to 'crisis' in GP workforce

GP Diarmuid Quinlan, based at the Woodview family doctors in Glanmire

A city GP has said that there is “a crisis in our GP workforce” with the North Lee area of Cork losing 10 doctors in the last four years.

Glanmire-based GP and Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Diarmuid Quinlan said that the pandemic and the fourth wave of Covid has “really accelerated this crisis”.

Dr Quinlan said that the pandemic has increased the workload of GPs, which, in turn, has seen the early retirement of many GPs across the country.

“The workload has increased very substantially. A lot of our GPs are aged 65 and over and the pandemic really has accelerated a lot of GPs’ retirement plans so that is the challenge and that is where we find ourselves,” he said.

His comments come as figures released by the HSE, through a parliamentary question that asked the Minister for Health the number of general practitioners that are in practice in each county in each of the years 2017 to date, revealed that the North Lee area has lost 10 GPs in the last four years with no replacement.

POPULATION GROWTH

Sinn Féin TD for Cork-North Central Thomas Gould said that the number of GPs is “not keeping up with population growth” and is a "symptom of the broken health service in Cork".

“We need to see a real plan to tackle the GP crisis. The solution to this is not to further cut services, such as Southdoc. We need to work together to find a solution that will attract more GPs into practice. This is yet another symptom of the broken health service in Cork,” Mr Gould added.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork-North Central Thomas Gould said that the number of GPs is “not keeping up with population growth” and is a "symptom of the broken health service in Cork". Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Sinn Féin TD for Cork-North Central Thomas Gould said that the number of GPs is “not keeping up with population growth” and is a "symptom of the broken health service in Cork". Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The data, which included GPs not contracted to the GMS Scheme but who are registered to provide services under the Primary Childhood Immunisation Scheme, the Health (Amendment) Act 1996, Heartwatch, Methadone Treatment Scheme and National Cancer Screening Service, showed that there has been an increase in the number of GPs in South Lee, West Cork, and North Cork since 2017, while North Lee suffered a loss of 10.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr Quinlan said: “Very clearly we have a crisis in our GP workforce and we have currently 30% fewer GPs per head of population compared to England and England think they should have 10% more than they have so we are 40% below where [they] think they should be.” 

Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery raised concerns about the insufficient number of GPs in the area to deal with the increase in population and an ageing population.

AGEING POPULATION

“I've been in Blackpool for 18 years and I certainly see a key change in the sense that GPs generally the average age is getting older now. In a lot of counties now in a lot of places a third of GPs are over 60 and what has happened is that the population has increased and also we are living longer, which is great but that means that our ability to manage big huge number of patients isn’t really there.

“As people live longer obviously they’re going to get more things and so you need to be able to manage that so we need more GPs because the population is increasing but also the population is aging and then also we’re doing a lot more things in general practice which we wouldn't have done years ago which is good but you have to increase capacity,” he said.

Dr Sheehan has raised the issue with the HSE Southern Forum, saying: “We need to look at how we’re working and how we’re doing things and maybe change a bit how we’re doing things because otherwise, the problem is going to get worse and worse.” 

The Echo has contacted the HSE for comment.

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