Medical Council highlights GP workforce and workload crisis

A shortage of practitioners is having a significant negative impact on patient care, according to the Council's latest workforce report

Max Ryan

March 28, 2024

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  • The Medical Council has called for urgent action to tackle the GP shortage in Ireland. 

    Ireland has an ageing general practitioner workforce, and a substantial proportion of GPs are close to retirement age. This is according to the Council’s latest medical workforce intelligence report, with its data covering 2022.

    The report says there is an urgent need for effective action to tackle Ireland’s shortage of GPs, which is causing significant challenges when it comes to delivering timely and high-quality patient care. 

    The report says there are 3,572 GPs on the specialist register and 797 on the general register, with a further 62 on the trainee register.

    There are slightly more females (2,333, 52.7%) than males (2,098, 47.3%) in general practice and the mean age of this cohort was 49.5 years. Of the GP cohort, 13.4% (595) are aged 65 and over and therefore likely to enter retirement within the next five years, the report says.

    A further 19.7% (873) are aged between 55 and 64 and are therefore likely to retire in the next 10 years. This suggests that nearly one-third of clinically active GPs working in general practice in Ireland are aged 55 and above, the Council says.

    The majority of GPs had an Irish basic medical qualification (3,390, 76.5%) and had been practising medicine for up to 42 years 

    Among clinically active GPs in general practice, 11.7% (517) reported working more than 48 hours per week, “in contravention with the European Working Time directive”. A further 25.7% (1,134) were working between 40 and 48 hours per week.

    Based on the total figures of those in general practice working as a GP there were a total of 0.86 GPs (on the  general, specialist, or trainee specialist register) and 0.69 specialist GPs per 1,000 people living in the country.

    The report says increasing pressure on GPs is a result of a growing and ageing population, increased patient multimorbidity, an ageing GP workforce with significant numbers facing retirement, poor morale and burnout. 

    “Another factor is a policy shift towards primary care with more complex conditions and chronic illnesses being managed in the community. This is evident as Sláintecare reforms are reorientating the health service towards primary care, which demands an increased and expanded GP workforce.”

    The Council report says current and future shortages of GPs are a concern, especially in rural and remote areas. Ireland has a high rural based population and currently 15% of the workforce is in a rural GP practice.

    “A shortage of GPs means that waiting times for GP appointments are becoming an issue, with at least 10% of the population being unable to sign up with a GP because their patient lists are at capacity,” according to the IMO.

    The Council says while the Non-EU GP rural practice initiative has sought to help ease the workforce crisis in some parts of rural Ireland, longer-term solutions to the shortage of GPs are crucial.

    The full report can be found on the Medical Council website:

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