The cuts introduced under FEMPI have reduced payments to GPs by 38 per cent since 2008 and have “directly led” to an unstable financial model which is not attractive to existing or younger GPs, according to the Organisation.
Dr Padraig McGarry, Chair of the IMO GP Committee, said “general practitioners, like other members of society, took on these cuts during the financial crisis and did their utmost to continue to deliver services to patients. However, 10 years later the traditional GP model is no longer financially sustainable as a direct result of the cuts imposed and patient services are not capable of being maintained, let alone expanded. The demographic of working GPs in Ireland clearly shows that over the next few years almost 700 GPs are due to retire and it is very difficult to see a scenario where these retirements will be replaced with younger GPs.
“General practice in Ireland is simply not attractive as a medical career. GPs around the country are struggling to maintain services, many lists are closed to new patients and younger GPs are choosing to leave rather than deal with a very uncertain future. This is all happening at a time when our elderly population is increasing, the incidence of chronic disease is rising and patient needs are becoming increasingly complex.”
The IMO is calling on Government to reverse FEMPI to “stabilise” existing GP services; resource new services in general practice such as chronic disease management and procedures that might otherwise be done in the hospital setting; and develop “a coherent roadmap” to deal with the workforce crisis in general practice.
The Organisation added that all reports on health reform “point very clearly” to the need to deliver more care in general practice. The IMO said it has been in negotiations with the Department of Health and HSE for the past year on new services, but “while we are all agreed on the rationale and the need for reform there is little evidence that the investment required is forthcoming”.
Dr McGarry added that general practice is “proven to be value for money” to the State and can result in real improvements to patient care.
“But we must also face up to the reality that it is not simply a matter of transferring work to an already overburdened service,” continued Dr McGarry. “We not only have to acknowledge that general practice needs funding if the service is to be maintained and developed but actually commit the necessary resources. GPs can and want to do more but in an environment where cuts as a result of austerity are not reversed it is difficult to see how GPs will be in a position to take on new work. Government has already committed to and commenced the roll back of the FEMPI cuts to other groups including all public servants and it is critical that the GP service is treated equitably. ”