'Unsustainable demand on the service': Call for urgent GP recruitment plan

Amid a rise in Covid-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses, GPs have been experiencing significant increase in demand.
'Unsustainable demand on the service': Call for urgent GP recruitment plan

Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery said more GPs and practice nurses are needed. 

A SHORTAGE of GPs and practice nurses is creating unsustainable demand for a service that is already under serious pressure, a Cork GP has said.

Amid a rise in Covid-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses, GPs have been experiencing significant increase in demand. Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery said more GPs and practice nurses are needed. 

He said SouthDoc has also experienced an increase in attendance, calling numbers accessing out-of-hours GP services “unsustainable”.

“The HSE has put a number of things in place and tried to help. Practices are running later surgeries to take some pressure off the out-of-hours service because the numbers are unsustainable.

“The other issue is there’s a huge shortage of general practitioners. About a quarter of our GPs are aged over 60 now and 14% are aged over 65.

“We also have the highest life expectancy in the EU and life expectancy here in Ireland is five years higher than Scotland. That is really good but as people live longer they obviously need more care so they need more GPs and practice nurses to manage that.”

Dr Sheehan, who is also a Fianna Fáil councillor, said that while hospital consultants have doubled in the last 20 years, the number of GPs has stayed the same, despite the fact that the services offered by GPs, such as vaccination and women’s health, have increased.

“We need more practice nurses and GPs to be able to provide that level of care,” he said.

Dr Sheehan said while the numbers in GP training have increased by 70% over the last six years, the majority of whom are staying in the country and entering the workforce, “we need to significantly increase numbers”.

He said given the number of GPs in training, the number entering the workforce “is going to increase over the next 10 years.”

His comments come as Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould called on the HSE to launch an urgent recruitment plan for GPs in Cork North Lee after figures released to him by the HSE showed that the number of GMS (general medical services) GPs in Cork North Lee dropped from 115 in 2017 to 100 in 2022.

“The loss of 15 GPs in North Lee over the past five years is a shocking indictment of successive government’s complete failure to resource primary care in Cork city.

“I am being contacted every single week by people who cannot get appointments with their GP. Many of these are forced to attend out-of-hours services and in some circumstances, hospitals. Given the current situation in hospitals, this is not good enough.

“There is only one GP for every 677 medical card patients in North Lee. This compares to 398 patients to every GP in South Lee. It is extremely clear that our GP services are under severe pressure but the HSE does not appear to be addressing this with the level of urgency needed,” he said.

The HSE has been contacted by The Echo for comment.

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