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The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has welcomed the recognition that demand on GP services will increase, however they have cautioned that there are not sufficient family doctors to meet this demand.

The GP union believes that demand will far exceed the 27 per cent projected by the ESRI, published in a report ‘Projections of Demand for Healthcare in Ireland’ today (26th October).

They have called for improved efforts in recruitment and retention of GPs, highlighting that high emigration is exacerbating the shortage of family doctors.

Mr Chris Goodey, NAGP Chief Executive, commented: “The number of consultations currently taking place in General Practice far exceeds those given as a benchmark in this study.

“The figures used from 2015 do not take into consideration the significant increase in yearly visits by the over 70s and under sixes after the introduction of GP Visit cards for these patient cohorts.

“The 2016 Healthy Ireland survey states that average GP visits per year for patients over 15 years is 4.5. Applying this average to the entire population this would indicate more than 21,400,000 consultations a year, which corresponds more closely to other data available.

“The projected increase in demand for GP visits of up to 27 per cent therefore has much greater implications as the service is already stretched beyond capacity”.

In a 2017 ICGP survey of GP Trainees and recent graduates, 30 per cent of GP trainees claimed to be considering emigration, while 18.1 per cent of recent graduates have already emigrated.

A further 17.4 per cent of recent graduates stated that they definitely or possibly would emigrate, citing ‘financial prospects’ and ‘quality of life’ as their reasons.

Mr Goodey said: “The ESRI study outlines a population increase of between 13-14 per cent and states that over 85s will double.

“This will have a significant impact on the management of chronic diseases and frail elderly in General Practice. Almost half of our young GPs are voting with their feet and leaving Ireland in search of better terms and conditions abroad”.

He concluded by advising that the crisis in General Practice must be urgently addressed to attract back highly qualified GPs and to provide the health service that patients deserve.