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Training for GPs may need to be ‘extended’ – Prof O’Dowd

The recent GP deal agreed between the IMO and the Department of Health should encourage young GPs in particular to stay in Ireland, the Professor of General Practice at Trinity College Dublin has told this newspaper.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) following his address at the recent Future Health Summit in the RDS, Prof Tom O’Dowd praised the new deal and said it should improve prospects for general practice in Ireland.

“I think it will encourage GPs (to stay in general practice in Ireland),” Prof O’Dowd told MI.

“When I talk to the younger GPs they are looking for a good reason to stay here, so they can work in a respected profession that’s better resourced than we have at the moment.

“So I am quite optimistic I have to say.”

Prof O’Dowd spoke at the summit on the topic of ‘general practice and long-term illnesses’. He said that although the deal is to be welcomed, the new working arrangements may need greater training for GPs.

“I think there will be a different pattern of working, there will be much more care of chronic illness and that would put demands on training,” he said.

“I think the training may well have to be extended so that we can train GPs better.

“Also I think the services will have to improve, particularly the diagnostics including radiology will have to improve a lot.”

Dublin GP and former IMO President Dr Ray Walley, also addressing the summit, outlined the details agreed between the IMO and the Department of Health in the new deal. Dr Walley said there was much that was positive in the agreement, highlighting in particular the deprivation payment arrangement.

Dr Ray Walley

“I think it is appropriate that this is the Future Health Summit, because we really believe that we are entering the era of the generalist – which is the general practitioner,” Dr Walley told the summit.

Dr Walley noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has “recognised the importance of orientating healthcare towards general practice/community care. In other words primary care.”

He added that numerous studies had “reaffirmed the value of general practice, drawing clear association between GP supply and improved healthcare outcomes and lower patient mortality”.

“GP care has also been shown to be associated with a greater uptake in screening programmes, immunisation, improved medicine use and adherence.”

Dr Walley noted that GPs bring “continuity of care” to the health service.

“GPs get to know their patients over the long time, the cradle to grave story. As a result we understand the importance of well-being, with full knowledge of the patient’s background. With that we practice patient-centred care. Specialist care is very disease-focused, while general practice is patient-focused.

“General practice has also been found to increase access to care in areas of urban and rural deprivation. GPs are also experts in co-morbidity.”

He said the further extension of free GP care for those over 12 would need to be discussed in future negotiations.

Last month the IMO announced the results of a ballot of its GP membership that showed 95 per cent of GP members supported the deal with Government, which encompasses a full reversal of the FEMPI cuts as well as additional funds to introduce the management of chronic disease for GMS patients in general practice.

According to the Organisation, the deal has secured €210 million in increased funding for GPs over the coming years. Of this total, €120 million represents the reversal of the FEMPI cuts of 2015.

A further €80 million has been secured for the management of GMS patients with chronic disease in the community.

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