The new Chair of the IMO GP committee Dr Tadhg Crowley has called for swift action in negotiating GP contract issues once the report of the strategic review of general practice has been published.
A committee to undertake the review has been formed and is expected to issue a report to the Department of Health within the next six months.
The IMO and other GP stakeholders will contribute to the strategic review, Dr Crowley said, and, once it is complete, engagement should commence quickly with the IMO.
“We had called for this in 2019 as part of the GP agreement and it’s taken a little bit of time to come around,” he told the Medical Independent (MI).
“There are huge issues to address in terms of recruitment, retention of manpower and the various contract issues.
“It’s all fine to have a report. But how are they going to action the report is what we’ll be interested in.”
He would like to see talks commence “as soon as possible” after the report is published, he added.
While not wishing to prejudge the committee’s findings, Dr Crowley stressed that the outcomes of the review would ultimately “require action no matter what they [report] come up with”.
It is as yet unclear whether negotiations will include a full renegotiation of the 1972 contract or create “add-ons” to the existing GMS contract, which is what has occurred in the past.
Amidst the uncertainty ahead, Dr Crowley argued that much remained to be considered in the context of the many population challenges.
“It’s an exciting time in general practice but it’s a worrying time in terms of the workload that’s expected,” he told MI.
“General practice is coming out of Covid and there is a workload associated with that. People are finding it harder to access care because of fewer numbers of GPs, GPs leaving the country, and then we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic. So there are increased numbers of diseases and people are getting older. There is a lot to consider.”
Separately, Dr Crowley said on officials from the IMO met with HSE representatives on Monday 24 April to discuss the expansion of patients doctor visit cards in general practice.
“There are huge implications for GP workload and for the patient,” he explained.
“The patient will be given a card. Up to now they would have had access, and now they will be on a waiting list to get access to general practice.”
Dr Crowley added that eligible patients would mostly likely begin receiving their new cards in the “next month or two”.
Commenting on the expansion, Dr Crowley reiterated his criticism of the move ahead of the completion of the strategic review.