Saturday 1 October 2016

People living in poorest areas get worst healthcare

Published 19/10/2015 | 02:30

A high workload and poor investment mean that GPs are reluctant to work in these deprived areas
A high workload and poor investment mean that GPs are reluctant to work in these deprived areas

A stark postcode divide that leaves people in the most deprived areas with the worst healthcare is revealed in a new report by GPs today.

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Doctors working in areas of "blanket deprivation" in urban areas across the country are warning that urgent action is needed.

It has been estimated that 5,400 fewer people would die prematurely across Ireland each year if social deprivation was tackled, said Dr Brian Osborne, author of the report 'Irish General Practice: Working with Deprivation'.

The health gap has now led to doctors working in deprived areas forming a new group called 'GPs At The Deep End'. A similar group was previously set up in Scotland.

The report from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) notes that men in the poorest areas on average die 4.3 years earlier and women 2.7 years before people in better-off areas.

And in Ireland, the cancer death rate in lower socio-economic groups is more than double that of the higher classes.

A high workload and poor investment mean that GPs are reluctant to work in these deprived areas.

"Nationally, there is one GP per 1,600 population. In north Dublin, there is one GP per 2,500," says the report.

The family doctors are constrained due to a lack of access to services such as scans. This is leading to delays in diagnosing illnesses.

A public patient can wait 12 weeks for access but a private patient is seen in just 12 days

Social deprivation is also associated with a higher prevalence of psychological distress.

The report warns of the higher rate of burnout for GPs who have a high number of deprived patients and called for special financial, personal, professional and educational supports to be provided for them. The recommendations include:

l A deprivation weighting allowance should be given by the HSE to GPs in these areas;

l Surgery premises should be subsidised or provided free of charge. GP practices in these areas mostly reply on state payments for their income;

l Incentives to hire more GPs to allow doctors spend more time with patients;

l One-stop health hubs should be set up for marginalised groups, such as the homeless;

l Practice allowances to allow doctors buy ECG machines, which checks patients' hearts;

l More trainee GPs going into surgeries in deprived areas.

Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) is to discuss whether its members should cap the number of patients seen daily in light of free care being extended to children under 12.

Irish Independent

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