News Health

Monday 26 August 2019

Free care means extra waiting times, GPs say

GPs fear extension of free care will lead to increased waiting times
GPs fear extension of free care will lead to increased waiting times
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The majority of GPs fear the extension of free care to under-sixes and the over-70s will lead to increased waiting times for other patients this winter.

And more than one-third believe giving free visits to the over-70s will not necessarily result in better monitoring of their health needs.

The findings emerged in a survey of family doctors by the Irish College of General Practitioners, (ICGP) to be released today at the organisation's winter meeting. An overwhelming 90pc of GPs feel that communication between the Government and GPs has failed both doctors and patients.

The survey also revealed that 47pc of GPs describe their morale as poor or very poor, and for 77pc their morale has worsened over the past five years.

Three-quarters of GPs rated their current stress levels as high, or very high.

More than two-thirds of GPs welcomed moves to provide more care for people with long-term illnesses, saying it would benefit patients to transfer more of them from hospital care to their surgeries. However, this was contingent on appropriate supports and resources being put in place.

Dr Margaret O'Riordan, ICGP Medical Director, warned: "Underinvestment in general practice, a feature of Irish health policy, has been exacerbated in recent years.

"We have known anecdotally that this has had an impact on morale among our members. This report, for the first time, details the extent of that impact.

"Research shows that factors, such as work overload, lack of control over work demands and insufficient reward for work volume and complexity are risks for professional burnout."

She said that manpower issues are a particular challenge, with recruitment of both locum and new doctors "at crisis level".

"The current GP workforce cannot continue to function unless this situation is addressed as a priority by the Government.

"Mechanisms suggested elsewhere, such as new organisational arrangements, advancing the planned reversal of financial cuts and implementing workforce improvement strategies, are critical to this recovery," she added.

Irish Independent

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