New GP scheme aims to recruit doctors from abroad to tackle rural shortages

The HSE and ICGP initiative aims to recruit GPs from countries outside the EU
New GP scheme aims to recruit doctors from abroad to tackle rural shortages

Muireann Duffy

A new scheme backed by the HSE and Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) is aiming to recruit GPs from outside the EU to come and work in rural parts of the country in an attempt to address shortages.

The first recruits to the non-EU GP initiative are due to begin their work here by February. It is hoped that over 100 doctors will come to Ireland as part of the scheme by the end of 2023.

As The Irish Times reports, the doctors will be placed in a rural practice and be provided with supports whilst they complete two years of supervised work. At the end of their supervised period, it is hoped they will qualify as GPs in the Irish system and remain in the area where they trained.

Recent figures from the ICGP illustrate the depth of the shortages, heightened by a large portion of GPs nearing retirement and a growing general population.

The college estimates there are currently around 2,807 full-time equivalent GPs working in the State, with the Department of Health, HSE and Irish Medical Council (IMC) recommending a 40 per cent increase to meet current demands.

In addition, the ICGP estimates that by 2028, a GP workforce of 6,000 should be targetted.

Eighteen doctors make up the scheme's first intake, as well as 30 doctors who registered before Christmas through the ICGP's portal. It is expected that many of the recruits will come from South Africa.

However, the ICGP's clinical lead for General Practice and Nursing Dr Brendan O'Shea previously told that we must ensure that international recruitment is done responsibly.

While Dr O'Shea said the scheme "is a very important aspect of manpower planning that must be explored", he added that it could also be a "serious drain of essential skills" for the countries from which the doctors are travelling.

"It has very direct consequences for populations in those societies," he said.

"If we are recruiting from abroad, it’s important that it’s very clear what we’re doing, and that the international medical candidates that we’re attracting are looked after and are brought into a functional system for a specific purpose."

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