The number of GP training places has fallen as a result of consultant vacancies and is below the figure the ICGP had hoped to offer, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.
Last year the ICGP offered 194 GP training places, but this year the figure has fallen to 192.
The two fewer places on offer in 2019 are due to a lack of consultant paediatricians in hospitals nationally, MI has been informed.
The reduction runs counter to the Department of Health target of reaching 240 GP training places over the coming years. The target was set to ensure the country maintains the required number of GPs, as retirements are due to increase rapidly in the near future.
This year, 446 doctors applied to enter GP training schemes, which is the highest ever number. The ICGP had hoped the number of places available would be around 200.
In a statement, Dr Karena Hanley, National Director of GP Training with the ICGP, confirmed that offers for 192 places had been issued.
“Once again about 50 per cent of candidates received an offer of their first preference. Just over 70 per cent of applicants have accepted their posts in the first round. It is expected that all the places will be filled this year. The ICGP is very happy with recruitment for the 2019 intake,” Dr Hanley said.
It is understood that the number of training places offered this year could have been even less were it not for the efforts of ICGP staff.
However, access to appropriate hospital paediatrics posts remains a significant limiting factor in achieving the required number of GP training places, the ICGP said.
The College was forced to reduce the number of places after the HSE was unable to confirm when full-time consultant paediatricians would be in place at University Hospital Kerry (UHK).
As a result, the number of training posts in the South West Specialist Training Programme has been reduced from 10 to eight in 2019.
It is understood that in September four paediatricians were appointed at UHK, which currently has no full-time paediatricians. However, the appointees have yet to take up their positions.
Locum paediatricians, who do not provide GP training, are currently in place.
Nationally, there is a lack of adequate paediatric training posts for GP trainees due to a shortage of paediatricians in Irish hospitals.
The number of trainees on a training scheme is determined by various factors, including the capacity for hospital posts at local level.
Dr Eamonn Shanahan, ICGP Chair of Postgraduate Training, argued that “the single biggest impediment to increasing GP training places is access to paediatric jobs”.