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GP representatives welcome rural practice allowance deal

The deal, which was negotiated between the IMO, HSE and Department of Health, will see the current maximum rural practice allowance increase from €16,216 to €20,000 per annum, and see the number of eligible GPs double to 332.

GMS GPs who are in a GMS practice in an area which has a population of less than or equal to 2,000 within a 4.8km radius of the GP’s principal practice address will be eligible for the new Framework.

Under the new agreement, GPs will be required to live within a reasonable distance of the centre, subject to the prior approval of the HSE. Currently, GPs are required to live in the immediate centre in which their practice is located.

The Framework will also be applicable to established group practices in a qualifying area –  previouslynd it was restricted to single handed practitioners only. It will also be available in a modified form where there are two eligible GMS practice units in a qualifying area. Previously allowances were only available where there was no other GMS GP in the area.

However restrictions will apply – such as where there are three practice units or more in a qualifying area, and no practice unit may benefit from more than one Framework arrangement.

The new agreement also addresses increases in payment for a number of special type consultations.

The IMO welcomed the deal as a step in the right direction. “However, this deal alone is not enough to attract GPs back to Ireland. This agreement is very specific to rural general practice and while it may help retain GPs in rural areas it is not in and of itself sufficient to attract any new GPs to establish. The widening and strengthening of the Rural Practice Support Framework is welcome as is the introduction of the special item for service for long acting reversible contraception and 24-hour ambulatory pressure. The IMO hopes to now move onto the next phase of contract talks which will encompass chronic disease management in general practice,” a statement from the Organisation said.

The IMO added: “Until a new contract that is adequately resourced is in place Ireland has little chance of keeping our trainees or attracting GPs back from abroad.”

The NAGP said the deal is a “vindication” for doctors but also cautioned that enhanced fees must be viewed within the context of a new contract.

“Numbers eligible for the rural practice allowance will more than double under this latest agreement and the NAGP believes it is appropriate that the unique challenges faced by the rural GP have finally been acknowledged by the current Government,” commented NAGP CEO Mr Chris Goodey.

“This is something we have been committed to over the last number of years and we have lobbied hard to get these issues recognised and addressed. Our members had already voted in favour of the new proposals and will be happy to see them finally implemented.”

Mr Goodey also reiterated that “it is vitally important that any new contract negotiations must include the NAGP and its 1,507 members”.

The Framework agreement will come into effect from 1 May and governing circulars will issue to give effect to the agreement in due course, said the IMO. The Framework will be reviewed in 2024, with the subsequent review taking place in 2032 and every five years thereafter.

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