Dáil Éireann - Volume 682 - 12 May, 2009

Written Answers. - General Medical Services Scheme.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will relax the conditions whereby doctors are required to have been in general practice here for five years before they can qualify for inclusion on the list of general practitioner for the purposes of the general medical services scheme, especially in view of both the need for more GPs generally, especially in areas in which there is currently a shortage, and the needs of immigrant communities, many of whom prefer doctors who speak their native languages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18443/09]

  Deputy Mary Harney:The HSE is working closely with the Irish Medical Organisation on GP Workforce Planning and a joint working group to examine this area has been established in this regard. In addition, an extensive mapping exercise has been undertaken by the HSE and a number of measures in relation to maintaining and increasing GP numbers have been identified and are currently being progressed.

These include the following:

[300] Ongoing engagement with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Medical Council in relation to increasing the number of GP training places within available resources and exploring alternative models of GP training.

Active management in each Local Health Office to encourage GP assistantship and partnership in relation to upcoming retirements where such doctors could potentially take over from the retiring GPs.

Recruitment drives in the UK and EU countries to attract qualified GPs to apply for available posts in Ireland, particularly regions experiencing difficulties attracting GPs.

Issuing of new GMS numbers in regions urgently requiring additional GPs. This is being undertaken in accordance with the established consultation process with the Irish Medical Organisation.

Continued expansion of Primary Care Teams and Primary Care Centres so that GPs applying for posts are attracted to high quality, well supported posts in suitable premises. To date, 110 teams are at an advanced functioning level (holding clinical team meetings on individual client cases) and the Health Service Executive has indicated that it plans to have 210 teams in place by the end of 2009.

In addition to the above, research has been undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs on behalf of the Joint Department of Health and Children / HSE Working Group on Workforce Planning. This research, conducted by FÁS on behalf of the Expert Group, analysed the labour market for 12 healthcare occupations, including GPs. The research, which is expected to be finalised in a few months, will help determine future GP workforce planning and training needs.

Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 175.