Irish Medical Organisation

IMO meets with Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health on GP Capacity Issues

IMO to warn Committee that unless action is taken to increase the workforce in General Practice there will be ongoing difficulties in expanding GP care and meeting the health needs of patients


  • GP numbers are way below requirements to meet current population requirements
  • Ireland has a growing, ageing population that will require more GP care
  • Up to 1,600 additional GPs will be required for the expansion of GP care that is free at the point of access


 The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) will this morning present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health on the serious issues around GP capacity and the impact that will have for patients and for plans to expand GP care that is free at the point of access. 


The IMO will warn the Committee that we have already lost a generation of GPs to other health systems due to cutbacks imposed on funding to General Practice during the years of austerity.  While those cuts have finally been reversed Ireland faces an ongoing capacity issue and must do everything possible to support GPs in establishing so that patients can have the care they require in their communities.



Key Drivers Leading to Capacity Problems:


  • HSE’s own figures suggest we need up to 1,660 more GPs by 2028 to enable us deal with growth in population in general and growing age of population in particular
  • One in 5 of existing GPs is expected to retire before the end of this decade
  • Many GPs are unable to take reasonable leave from their practices which is directly leading to increase levels of stress and burnout amongst doctors
  • On average GPs are working far in excess of the nominal 40 hours a week.  Most GPs work significant additional hours after a day of patient consultations to manage checking and follow up on test results, organise referrals, make phone consultations and complete the administrative functions associated with the running of a GP practice.
  • Onerous obligations under current GP Contract in terms of costs of establishing, ongoing financial risk burden, commitment to both day and out of hours surgery and uncertainty around future workload.  


Professor Tadhg Crowley of the GP Committee of the IMO said “The capacity problems within the GP service have been building for over a decade now. We know what has caused the problem and it is up to Government now to listen to solutions.  We cannot afford to lose more of our highly trained graduates who are in such demand from other countries where they can deliver care with better resources, better structures and team supports.  Over 29 million consultations take place in General Practice each year.  90% of those are dealt with by GPs and do not need any onward referral.  GPs have shown that when they are supported they can deliver for patients.  All the evidence shows that moving more care to the community is good for patients, but we need GPs in those communities and in sufficient numbers to meet the increased demand.”


The IMO will propose a number of solutions to the Committee including:


  • Supports for newly qualified GPs to establish a new practice or transition on a partnership model within existing practices
  • Support to recruit a broader range of GP Team members to assist in the delivery of care within the GP setting
  • Management of workload and delivery of structured care programmes within General Practice
  • Urgent review of out of hours commitment so that it meets the urgent care needs of patients but is equitable for GPs around the country and not an unmanageable burden


Dr Madeline Ni Dhálaigh said “GPs provide continuity of care for our patients which is critical in terms of better health outcomes.  But we need support to manage and structure our workload so that we are not constantly firefighting.  We were more than happy to play our part in the pandemic, but that level of workload is not sustainable, and we have to ensure that a career in General Practice will give all GPs an opportunity to deliver the best possible care to patients, while maintaining safe levels of work and enjoying some work/life balance.  The future is daunting for newly qualified GPs, and we must support them in practical ways that will allow them to pursue their careers here in Ireland”.

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