IMO warns that Government policy risks overwhelming GP services.
- “The system will struggle with the increased demand of 500,000 free GP visit cards.”
- Waiting times for routine care will increase
Saturday 15th April 2023. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that the proposed extension of Free GP Visit cards to an additional 500,000 people will “overwhelm” the service. The warning was given at the AGM of the IMO taking place in Killarney today (Saturday).
The IMO has warned that the consequences could include
- Waiting lists of weeks for patients wishing to see their GP
- More GPs being forced to close their doors to new patients
- Displaced care for those who need it most as the demand for appointments increase
- Increased pressure on OOH (out-of-hours) GP services and Emergency Departments
Dr. Tadhg Crowley, Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, told a meeting of the Committee at the AGM today; “GPs have a critical role to play in the health services but overwhelming GP services will destroy its potential and could lead to those with serious health conditions being unable to access urgently needed care.”
He continued, “It has been clearly demonstrated that extending the numbers eligible for free GP visits leads to increased demands to see GPs. Without significant additional resourcing, GP services will simply be overwhelmed by the increased demand. Appointments may be free but they will be harder to access leading to displacement of care for those who need it most.”
The IMO also warned that the capacity crisis is already impacting significantly on GP services. Government reports show that we need over 1,100 extra GPs to deliver expanded capacity. At present GPs are being forced to close their lists to patients, to defer routine appointments for up to 2 weeks and to forego holidays because locums cannot be sourced.
Dr. Crowley said that the fact that the DVC were being introduced ahead of a planned review of the current GP model and workload highlighted the folly of the move; “this is putting the cart before the horse. Let’s understand the pressures that GPs are currently under and the capacity in the service now before taking dramatic steps to increase those pressures and reduce that capacity further. We want to deliver good quality care to patients, we want a new GP Model but we must plan, make sure all the milestones are in place before expanding the service. GP Care that is free at the point of access is a wonderful aspiration but we must make sure we are actually ready to deliver on that aspiration and at the moment that is simply not the case.”