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The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has released a statement to express concern relating to comments made by the Taoiseach at a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators on Wednesday last (February 7th).

This follows recommendations made by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, that if every General Practitioner tried to send two fewer patients to the A&E each week, huge strides towards resolving the trolley crisis would be made.

The NAGP said: “Comments like this are hugely concerning as it would appear that the Taoiseach doesn’t actually understand the crux of the problems in the health care system”.

The statement continued: “If there is inappropriate behaviour taking place in the healthcare system, it is not GPs who will be taking the blame. GPs never put patients on trollies, it is the hospital staff who make that decision, based on their assessment when they present at the hospital. On the contrary, GPs refer patients to A&E Departments as a last resort.

“A GP-led primary care model and not the upside down structure which is currently in place would help alleviate the pressures in the health service”.

The association said that the inference that GP referral rates should be monitored massively undermines the professional, educated, and compassionate decision making process behind referring patients, stating that such decisions are made with the patient’s best interest in mind and pointing the blame towards “chronic underfunding” and “limited access to diagnostic equipment for GPs” as central causes of overcrowding in the A&E departments.

The NAGP has called for the empowerment of GPs, by enabling them to carry out more procedures in the community through a GP-led primary care health system, giving them access to diagnostics in the community, and the facility to manage chronic disease so that waiting time, lists, and demand for beds in hospitals will be alleviated.

The GP association concluded: “Again, the NAGP asks that negotiations on a GP contract get under way with the representative bodies to ensure that patient safety and wellbeing is at the heart of our healthcare system”.