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Doctors strongly dispute DPER’s medical workforce analysis

According to the document, GPs and specialists in Ireland carried out an average of 1,224 consultations in 2012, which was about 60 per cent of the EU average. It was largely based on OECD statistics.

An IMO spokesperson said it would “seriously question” the data and noted a study in the Irish Medical Journal in late 2013, which suggested that the average annual number of GP consultations per person was 5.17.

“The research estimates that GPs undertake 24 million consultations (public and private per year) and an additional one million consultations take place out-of-hours. With 2,414 GPs holding GMS contracts in Ireland and an estimated 700 GPs working without contracts, the average number of consultations in general practice alone is 8,028 per GP.”

While specialist consultations would be lengthier and less frequent than GP consultations, the IMO spokesperson added that Department of Health data from 2012 suggested there were 2,355,030 outpatient attendances (consultant-delivered activity only).

“With 2,514 consultants employed in the HSE, this would give an average number of 936 public consultations per consultant.”

In a recent ICGP study carried out at Trinity College Dublin, most GPs self-reported seeing over 30 patients per day.

ICGP Chair of Communications Dr Mark Murphy said that, on a typical working day, he would see approximately 35 patients, in addition to various other duties, including follow-up on investigations ordered by the practice and contacts with patients, as appropriate.

The workload burden was “one of the primary reasons” why so many younger GPs were deciding to emigrate, he noted.

NAGP CEO Mr Chris Goodey said that, with an average GP consultation lasting 10-15 minutes, “we do not see how anyone could believe that the average whole-time GP only spends an hour to an hour-and-a-half with patients per day”.

Commenting on 11 July, a DPER spokesperson said it had not received complaints about the paper, although one GP had been in contact.

Prior to publication, the paper was circulated to the Department of Health and underwent an internal quality assurance review. 

Such papers do not constitute a formal policy position and health resourcing would continue to be “addressed” through the annual estimates process, added the spokesperson.

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