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Increase in capacity priority before extension of free GP care – IMO

By Paul Mulholland - 13th Oct 2021

The need for more capacity in general practice, with services under extreme pressure due to increased demand, has been underlined by Dr Denis McCauley, Chair of the GP Committee.

In response to the planned extension of free GP care to six-and-seven-year-old age groups, Dr McCauley told the Medical Independent that this had to be “thought through carefully”, and that capacity had to be put in place before increasing demand.

 Without extra capacity, every time a Minister stood up to announce an extension to free GP care, it diminished care and same day services available to everyone else, he said.

 While Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar told (13 October) that GPs would be paid the same fee as they received for under-fives and they hoped that would be enough to “bring them on board”, Dr McCauley stressed the priority was the issue of capacity with a “static workforce” and 30 per cent of GPs about to leave the service in six to seven years.

“It’s a system that is creaking that needs more capacity.” Dr McCauley told MI.

 He was keen to see measures put in place to attract younger GPs and to encourage them to become partners rather than employees.

“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,” Dr McCauley said in the Organisation’s official statement on Budget 2022 12 October.

  “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. 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.”

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