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The IMO has said it “acknowledges” additional funding in health announced in Budget 2022 but warns it will not be enough to tackle the “enormous challenges in the service”.
President of the IMO, Dr Ina Kelly, said that a capacity crisis was now endemic across health services: “We keep loading more demand on fewer healthcare professionals. We are losing GPs, losing consultants and losing young, newly-trained doctors yet Government is not tackling the underlying problem of too few doctors and too little capacity. We are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic and the recent cyberattack but even before these shocking events our health service was not resourced to meet patient needs and incapable of providing timely access to care.
“Patients and the medical profession need to see tangible and sustainable solutions. In our view now is the time to be bold, face up to the challenges and not continue to paper over the cracks. The additional and unexpected resources available to Government could have been used to invest in the health of our nation.”
Dr Clive Kilgallen, Vice President and Chair of the IMO Consultant Committee, said: “With one in five consultant posts vacant and the need to recruit even more consultants it is more than disappointing that Government have not seriously addressed the manpower crisis in our services which in turn is leading to long waiting lists.
“This crisis in manpower is one of the Government’s making as they introduced a unique and discriminatory pay cut on consultants since 2012 (30 per cent more than cuts imposed on other public servants during the years of austerity). Waiting lists are inevitable when we have too few doctors coupled with a lack of capacity in beds, theatre time, diagnostics and outpatient clinics.
“The funding for tackling waiting lists while welcome will not deal with the significant problem that has been created by successive governments through lack of investment in the public system and a policy of relying on the private system. It is no surprise that we cannot recruit and that our NCHDs continue to pursue their careers abroad where they are supported and valued.”
Dr Denis McCauley, Chair of the GP Committee, said: “What was needed in this Budget was supports to increase the capacity in general practice to allow it to deliver a greater range of services in the community and attract more GPs. Instead Government have once again put the cart before the horse and announced an extension of so called “Free GP Care” on an already overburdened service. This move, while popular with politicians, will inevitably add to waiting times.
“The vast majority of general practice is working well over 100 per cent capacity in an effort to meet patient need and many GPs have been unable to take any leave during the past 18 months due to a combination of locum shortages and increased workload. In our view there are many areas of care that require more urgent funding such as extension of the very successful chronic disease programme, a dedicated women’s health programme in general practice to deal with all aspects of sexual and reproductive health and a mental health programme in general practice. these are the priorities that will make a real difference to patients and improve overall health outcomes.
“It will be critical, in the context of negotiations with the IMO on this policy move, that there are supports agreed to improve capacity within the service and in particular assist younger GPs in establishing. Government must help us meet the increased demand by investing in measures that will increase capacity and enable practices to take on more doctors as well as support staff.”