HSE primary care teams ‘a failed initiative’

Health Minister Simon Harris

Primary care teams developed by the HSE throughout the country have been deemed “a failed initiative” by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

In a submission to the Oireachtas joint committee on health on primary care expansion, as recommended in the Sláintecare Report, the ICGP says the shortcomings in the “well-intentioned’ primary care team process must be addressed.

Health Minister Simon Harris recently confirmed there would be a “continued focus” on the development of primary care centres and primary care teams.

A primary care team is a multidisciplinary group of health and social care professionals who work together to provide services locally.

A typical primary care team consists of GPs, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists.

However, the ICGP claims that outside of the GP-led element, members of the primary care teams are not IT-enabled and that primary care team meetings are, for the most part, not run efficiently.

It also claims that GPs are “debarred” from participating as rotating chairs and the process seems more concerned with administration rather than service delivery.

“Irrespective of whether primary care teams are to be dropped or developed, ICGP policy now places a major emphasis on building stronger general practice teams, both in terms of team size, capacity and a broader and deeper skill mix, with sessional inputs from allied health professionals,” it states.

Chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Padraig McGarry, said he was part of a primary care team and, quite often, the allied professional that he would like to refer patients to did not exist.

“If someone goes away on sick leave or maternity leave, or whatever, there is no replacement,” said Dr McGarry.

The GP was critical of the development of “corporate practices” that provided an exit strategy for some GPs who found themselves in dire financial straits.

He believed that ensuring the financial viability of the country’s 4,000-plus GPs would reduce the risk of the service “imploding”.

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