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Three-year wait for GP contract an obstacle to Sláintecare

30 May 2017

GPs are unlikely to see a new contract within three years at the current rate of the negotiations, and this would be an “unforgivable obstacle” to many of the reforms set out by the Oireachtas Future of Healthcare Committee.

Responding to the publication of the ‘Sláintecare Report’, the NAGP cautioned that the negotiation of a new GP contract must be accelerated with the equal involvement of all the parties, or implementation of the report would not happen.

It wants the Committee to ask the Minister for Health to fast-track the new GP contract and to involve all the representative bodies in a “new, equal, focused and meaningful negotiation process” that can deliver the outline of a new contract within six months.

Dr Emmet Kerin, President of the NAGP, thanked the Oireachtas Committee for its dedicated work over the past year to deliver the new 10-year plan for the reform of the health service, which he said would “help take politics out of health and give direction and clarity to the decisive shift to primary care that is required to redress our current failed hospital-centric model of care”.

However, he stressed that without realistic funding, manpower and infrastructural supports being front-loaded into general practice, the extension of free GP care to all over five years was “utopian” and would “destabilise an exhausted service” already working beyond safe capacity.

“The near-universally negative GP experience of the introduction of free GP care for the under-sixes is a barrier to the implementation of this report as the day-time and out-of-hours service was overwhelmed, not by ‘unmet need’, as stated by the Committee, but by unyielding demand for free access for minor self-limiting conditions of low acuity which displaced access and clinical time for more appropriate GP consultations.”

Overall, the cross-party report stated that ongoing investment, in the region of €2.8 billion over a 10-year period, would be required to build up the necessary capacity, expand entitlements and reduce the relatively high out-of-pocket costs experienced by Irish people.

An additional transitional fund of €3bn is also earmarked to support investment across the health system in areas such as infrastructure, e-health and expansion of training capacity. The report puts a figure of €455 million over five years for the cost of universal GP care, with €265.6m over the first five years of the plan needed for universal primary care.

The introduction of a new Cárta Sláinte, which will entitle all residents to access a comprehensive range of services based on need, at no or reduced cost, will be introduced on a phased basis, to include such services as GP care, diagnostics, as well as long-term, maternity and dental care.

The NAGP is looking for an independent impact analysis on the separation of private practice from the new, publicly funded, free-GP scheme, so as to avoid and limit any “unintended consequences” that may arise to patients and providers from this separation. “This should mirror the same recommendation made by the Committee for consultants who are being asked to make a similar change in work practice.”

While the Association agreed that general practice should be at the heart of a new “functioning and connected health system”, it said it could not support change that was not properly resourced or funded and that was beneficial for its patients as well as its members.

The post Three-year wait for GP contract an obstacle to Sláintecare appeared first on Irish Medical Times.

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