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‘We have faced each challenge and proven the value of general practice’

By Dr Denis McCauley - 17th May 2022

Irish Medical Organisation
Irish Medical Organisation, Annual General Meeting, Aviva Stadium, 28 May 2022

Irish Medical Organisation, Annual General Meeting, Aviva Stadium, 28 May 2022.

Chair of the IMO GP committee Dr Denis McCauley describes the essential work GPs have undertaken during the pandemic and the progress achieved over the last year.

Covid-19 remains very much a part of the GP working environment and we will be continually adapting as the disease evolves. The past two years have seen GPs and their teams stand up to the challenges that the pandemic has brought as we dealt with Covid assessments and test referrals, the vaccination programme and maintaining normal GP services at the same time. 

I am proud to say we have faced each and every challenge head on and proven the value of general practice. This is a tribute to every member of the GP team and testament to the ability of general practice to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, while all the time continuing to provide the continuity of care, which is a cornerstone of the specialty. 

The incredibly successful Covid-19 vaccination programme was spearheaded by general practice, with over 3.5 million vaccinations being provided in general practice across primary doses and booster doses. This was not without its challenges and logistical difficulties and the IMO worked closely with the HSE to address these issues and support our members. This support included a range of updates and webinars on the ongoing issues as well as providing support to members with regard to vaccine delivery and other issues. 

Covid-19 supports for assessment and referral for testing, as well as in-surgery respiratory assessments, agreed by the IMO with the State, continued and these were a vital support in helping deal with Covid in the community. 

In addition to this, the chronic disease management programme, agreed as part of the 2019 GP agreement, continued to be rolled out. The main programme is now open to all GMS/DVC [doctor visit card] patients aged 18 and over and the prevention programme and the opportunistic case finding programme have now also been introduced for those GMS/DVC patients aged 65 and over. 

This programme is now established as an essential component of general practice, providing a real difference to patients. The integrated nature of the software solution also points to the future of general practice and helps make the recording of data and claiming from the Primary Care Reimbursement Service a seamless process. 

The incredibly successful Covid-19 vaccination programme was spearheaded by general practice 

From an IMO perspective, much has been achieved in the last year. The penultimate payment of the FEMPI reversal under the 2019 GP agreement was paid in January of 2021 with the final increase being made in January 2022. Due to Covid-19, some of the initiatives under that agreement in terms of community health networks, e-health and negotiations on under-12s were delayed, but will come on stream over the coming year. 

All this being said, we must also be cognisant of the fact that there are many challenges facing general practice, not least in terms of GP capacity, locum availability and out-of-hours. We must look at creative capacity solutions, which could widen the general practice team as well as provide incentives for more GPs to work in clinical practice and indeed to take on GMS lists and partnerships. We have demonstrated time and time again that when supported and appropriately resourced, general practice can and will deliver – but equally Government must recognise the issues and be prepared to invest in the solutions. 

So with the AGM fast approaching, I look forward to this one-day event in the Aviva in Dublin on 28 May and to meeting colleagues and members in person again. I hope that all those in a position to attend will do so and we can have the opportunity to meet and discuss the challenges ahead. 

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