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The only way to mitigate against the risk of increasing health inequalities is that the path to universal GP care for all “must be accelerated in a planned and adequately resourced manner”, according to a statement signed by ICGP Chair Dr Mary Sheehan and President Prof Fergus O’Kelly.
Concerns are also expressed about increased demand for general practice services from the selected patient groups and the potential for this to impact on other patients, “such that all patients will no longer enjoy the same day or next day service which is a key feature of Irish general practice”.
GPs are stretched to capacity at present and any increase, however small, will have an impact on access for everyone, it outlines.
The statement follows a closed meeting of members at the ICGP annual conference in Galway last weekend.
“ICGP supports the principle of universal health care with access to care based on medical need rather than income. ICGP recognises that a pragmatic approach is required to achieve this and that introducing this measure on a phased basis due to economic constraints is a realistic approach,” it stated.
According to the statement, ICGP has noted that the under-six contract is intended to be an interim contract. “It is essential that the talks on the new GP contract commence immediately and that a new contract is delivered as a matter of urgency. A definite date should be set for commencement of negotiations now.”
ICGP “questions” the removal of existing GMS patients aged under-six from doctors who do not sign the new contract but who have been fulfilling their contractual responsibilities for these patients.
It also is seeking clarity as to whether a GP can refuse to take on extra patients allocated to their practice by the HSE, if the service they are currently delivering is working to maximum capacity.
“ICGP welcomes the indications that the announcements around the new contract will prioritise chronic care management in the general practice setting and that financial supports are being introduced for this.
“However ICGP has concerns regarding the workload implications and lack of infrastructural support for this contract. Furthermore the proposed timeline for consultation and implementation is overly ambitious and making such fundamental changes in such a short timeline could lead to adverse effects and unintended consequences. The ICGP recommends extension to the current deadline of May 25, 2015 to allow comprehensive consideration of all aspects of this contract.”
In the release, it is noted that ICGP does not have a role in commenting on specific contractual matters affecting the terms, conditions and fees of GPs, and “these matters will require engagement with the other GP representative bodies”.
The statement was issued to ICGP Members yesterday evening and is available through www.icgp.ie.