Sick people may face waiting lists just to see GPs following Budget cutbacks
The ability of GPs to see sick people on the day they call may be at an end following the latest round of cutbacks introduced in this month’s Budget, doctors have warned.
The General Practice committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the representative group for medical professionals, said doctors feared the latest proposed cuts could turn out to be a “tipping point” beyond which GPs could no longer provide the services that sick people need.
The Budget proposed cuts of 10% to payments for the General Medical Card Scheme, following on from cuts of up to 37% over the past two years.
The IMO warned that these cuts could mean that GPs will no longer be able to provide a same-day service to patients who need to be seen for treatment.
“Minister Reilly, himself a GP, risks being remembered as the Minister who presided over the introduction of waiting lists to see a GP,” said Ray Walley, chairman of the IMO’s General Practice Committee.
Services will most likely have to be curtailed, with GPs having to work strictly according to their contract and foregoing many services that can be provided in General Practice but which doctors no longer have the resources to provide.”
“In the absence of GPs being able to provide these services, patients may well end up crowding A&E departments with the likely result of patients ending up for long periods of time on trolleys.”
The IMO warned that much of the work currently done for free by GPs will have to return to secondary care – where the cost of delivering such a service is many multiples of what it costs to deliver in General Practice.
“GPs provide, in almost 95% of cases, same day delivery of service. They enjoy a satisfaction rating from their patients of over 90% - and as a profession, as a recent Medical Council study portrayed, are felt to be most trustworthy of all the professions,” said Dr Walley.
“But doctors now fear they will no longer have the ability to continue to provide the level of services to their patients as a result of this latest cut. Servicing patients requires resources – removal or limiting such a resource will eventually impact on the delivery of such a service.
The IMO said GPs have strived to maintain services to their patients despite the severe cuts in the past two years but unfortunately this position is now unsustainable.
“It remains to be seen how this will affect the public and the delivery of care to patients, but one thing is for certain: the tradition of General Practice and its position in society may well be changed forever should the envisaged changes take place,” said Dr Walley.
“The notion of delivery of Chronic Disease Management for conditions such as diabetes and the notion of universal free healthcare seem fanciful, given that the Government is unable to resource the existing service.”
For further information contact:
Maria Murphy - Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Irish Medical Organisation
10 Fitzwilliam Place
Tel: 01 6767273