General Practice facing 'unprecedented' workforce and workload crisis - ICGP

The Irish College of General Practitioners is to address the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday.
General Practice facing 'unprecedented' workforce and workload crisis - ICGP

Muireann Duffy

The HSE has predicted a shortage of between 1,260-1,660 General Practitioners (GPs) by 2028, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) is warning.

The group is due to address the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Wednesday, outlining the issues facing the sector.

In response to growing difficulties in accessing GP care in parts of the country, the ICGP is calling for a "much-expanded workforce with [an] appropriate skill mix, quality purpose-built premises, [and] administrative and IT supports to deliver timely, equitable access" to GPs.

The group states "two key drivers" in the current crisis are a workforce deficit coupled with excessive workload, describing these factors as "two fundamental challenges for continued timely, high-quality patient care".

The group are also calling for the immediate establishment of a high-level working group within the Department of Health, which should include the ICGP, HSE, Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Irish Medical Council (IMC), patient representative bodies, and other key stakeholders in order to facilitate greater coherence and communication across the healthcare sector.

Describing communication between the GP community and HSE as historically "suboptimal", the ICGP says regular meetings since the onset of the pandemic have had a "socialising effect, fostering a deep understanding of our respective roles, mutual trust and collaboration".

'Central role'

"The ICGP has a central role in the future policy direction of general practice," a statement from the group says.

"Major decisions around the restructuring of hospital groups, and positioning of community services for example, must include the voice of GPs.

"We reiterate the urgency of this matter and urge the Minister for Health and the department to establish this working group without further delay."

Highlighting eight challenges currently facing general practice in Ireland, including a department recommendation for between 37-48 per cent more GPs and the ageing GP workforce (20 per cent of GPs in Ireland plan to retire in the next five years), the ICGP has made a number of recommendations.

Among these are the training, recruitment and retention of more GPs, the provision of more General Practice nurses, healthcare assistance, practice management and administrative supports, and more GP premises to address the "bricks and mortar entry barrier".

The group also calls for a substantial expansion of the Research Hub for General Practice, stating "data drives quality decision-making".

The ICGP adds: "Research from the UK shows that each additional GP per 10,000 population was association with fewer hospital admission for both acute and chronic illness.

"Addressing the GP workforce and workload crisis will require meaningful engagement of all stakeholders with sufficient resources and 'real-time' data analytics.

"Working in partnership, we can deliver sustainable, timely access to high-quality GP care for all patients."

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