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The rate of GP emigration in Ireland is continuing steadily despite a shortage of GPs in Ireland, according to a survey of recently qualified GPs who are predominantly travelling to Canada and Australia.

The survey also shows that future GPs want a more flexible life, and that 30 per cent of trainees are considering emigration.

Lead author of the ICGP survey, Dr Gerry Mansfield, advised that a comprehensive plan to reverse this emigration trend should include a commitment to a better resourced model of general practice in Ireland.

Co-author Dr Claire Collins commented: “This survey is a timely reminder about the impact of the FEMPI cuts in general practice, not alone among existing practices, but also in terms of the incoming generation of general practitioners”.

The CEO of the ICGP, Fintan Foy, outlined how the college has been working on a series of actions in an effort to assist in tackling this emigration trend, such as the #BEaGP campaign and an agreement between the college and the HSE for additional GP training places to help meet the manpower crisis.

“However, it is essential that along with these actions, the Government must also move towards the reversal of FEMPI as a matter of urgency. We need a new GMS contract, with more flexible work-life balance for doctors, more access to diagnostics, and more support for ICT and practice staff,” Mr Foy added.

During the recession, the incomes of general practices- in fee income, support for practice staff, and overheads- was decreased by an average of 38 per cent by FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act).

Mr Foy called for specific attention to be paid to this “brain drain”, he asserted: “General practice is at the heart of Irish healthcare, with over 20 million consultations per year”.

“A major increase in demand for general practitioners is predicted in the coming years, not alone from an increase in older people with chronic diseases, but in the retirement of existing doctors”.

He warned: “At present, almost 17 per cent of GPs in Ireland are aged over 60, and we need to stem the flow of emigration and show graduates that there is a future in general practice here”.

Ninety eight per cent of recent graduate respondents said that they did not see themselves in single-principal practices in their future careers, while two-thirds did not wish to take on the administrative burden of managing a general practice, and the majority wanted to work part-time.