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The NAGP said it agreed with Mr O’Brien’s position that a decisive shift to primary care, if properly resourced, is part of the solution to the ongoing crisis in healthcare.
President of the NAGP Dr Emmet Kerin said: “Forward planning and financial investment are needed to make a decisive shift to GP-led primary care. This change must take place if we are to provide a health service that is safe, efficient and effective. I welcome Mr O’Brien’s recognition of the need for this reform and the need to make a substantial investment to drive this reform. We urge the Committee on the Future of Healthcare to take heed of the recommendation to put in place a transitional fund to enable a community-led health service. We need to see progress being made. The first step to moving more care into the community is a new GP contract that is fit for purpose. The NAGP are eager to begin this process.”
However, the NAGP warns that a recruitment and retention campaign is required to address the GP manpower deficit. According to the association, cuts under FEMPI and an outdated contract are resulting in GP trainees emigrating for more attractive work and pay conditions in “functioning health systems”.
It said the new GP contract must ensure that general practice is viable in the future: “The capacity crisis in general practice, recognised by Mr O’Brien in his column, must be addressed before any additional workload can be considered. The National Council of the NAGP are eager to begin the negotiation process with the HSE and Department of Health as soon as possible.”
Dr Kerin added: “If we are going to be in a position to treat patients in an appropriate time frame, there has to be an increase in funding to GP-led primary care in order to keep patients, who could be treated in the community, out of the emergency department. For those very ill patients who do need immediate hospital care there also needs to be direct access for GPs to the appropriate acute hospital department – whether that’s medical, surgical, gynae or frail elderly. There needs to be integration between primary care and secondary care to improve efficiency and patient care.”