Major international conference on rural general practice calls for urgent action on workforce crisis

By Reporter - 17th Jun 2022 | 340 views

The ICGP has urged the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to meet the College to discuss establishing a high-level working group on future general practice, amid growing numbers of retirements leaving communities without a GP in rural areas throughout Ireland.

Over 600 GPs from Ireland and overseas gathered for the first in-person annual conference of GPs since the pandemic, as part of the four-day international WONCA, World Rural Health Conference at  the University of Limerick.

The theme of the ICGP’s conference (18 June) is “Shaping General Practice for the Future” with a major panel discussion on the challenges of delivering primary healthcare in rural and remote communities across the globe.

The President of the ICGP Prof Tom O’Dowd, said: “GPs are at the frontline of the delivery of healthcare in Ireland, and the pandemic proved how essential GPs are, whether it’s vaccinating vulnerable people, managing chronic disease, or diagnosing a range of mental health problems. GPs are experiencing a huge increase in workload since the pandemic, while unable to fill vacancies when colleagues retire, or fill a new post because of demand.”

“As we gather to discuss rural healthcare and meet in person, we urge the Minister to establish a High-Level Working Group on Future General Practice, to help find innovative solutions to the workforce crisis in general practice. This is urgent, as communities all over Ireland are facing the loss of GPs through retirement.”

“Some 700 GPs are due to retire in the next six years, and we need 300 new GPs a year just to replace them.  At least 2,500 new GPs will be needed within the next seven years to meet existing demand.”

The Medical Director of the ICGP Dr Diarmuid Quinlan said: “We can see that GPs were under huge stress professionally and personally during the pandemic. We hope our session on Stress will help GPs understand the impact of this, and how it may be possible to manage it for themselves. 

“Nursing homes were front and centre in the early stages of the pandemic, and the ICGP has helped develop new resources for GPs delivering clinical care in residential settings. At this conference, we look at the future of GP-led care in nursing homes in the post-COVID-19 era.”

The ICGP one-day annual conference is being held alongside the international four-day WONCA World Rural Health Conference 2022 in UL (17-20 June), with the theme “Improving Health, Empowering Communities.”.

The international gathering is hosted by the University of Limerick School of Medicine, the Rural, Island and Dispensing Doctors of Ireland and the Irish College of General Practitioners,

The WONCA rural health conference will hear from a range of prestigious international speakers about the delivery of primary care in rural and remote communities from Afghanistan, to Australia, Sri Lanka, Scotland and more.

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, will speak on the topic of “Managing Acute Risks to Global Health” on Friday 17 June at 4.40pm.

Conference organiser Dr Liam Glynn, Professor of General Practice at the University of Limerick School of Medicine, and a GP in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare said: “We are honoured to host this major conference here in Limerick, and it’s an opportunity to highlight the essential role of family doctors in rural communities.  Being a rural GP is a true privilege and we are embedded into our local communities.”

 “But across rural Ireland there are dozens of vacant posts that the HSE can’t fill, and we need innovative thinking and greater supports to attract GPs to work in rural Ireland. We hope this Conference will help identify ways to empower communities to improve their own health and those around them.

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