Calls for urgent action as increasing number of people unable to access GP care in Wicklow

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Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore is calling on the Minister for Health and HSE to take urgent action to address the lack of GP availability across the county of Wicklow and wider country.

“An increasing number of people have been contacting my office asking for help and advice because they are unable to access GP care in their local area. Some constituents are having to wait long periods of time to get a GP appointment, while others have not even been able to register with a local GP practice because they are already at capacity. One Blessington resident told me that they moved to the area over two years ago and have still been unable to register with any of the local surgeries,” explained Deputy Whitmore.

“Following this, my office carried out a survey of all GP practices in County Wicklow to find out what GP availability is like across all districts in Wicklow, and the results were startling. 81% of the total GP Practices in County Wicklow took part in the survey and as of September 2023 only nine of these practices, less than a third, were accepting new patients. 70% of the surgeries who responded said that they were unable to accept new patients as they were already at capacity. Many said that they were oversubscribed, and that staff were working under very stressful conditions,” commented Ms Whitmore.

“Only eight of the GP surgeries who took part in our survey were operating a waiting list for new patients and none were able to estimate how long someone may be on the waiting list before being able to register.”

“This lack of GP availability is across the board and impacting all districts in Wicklow. One GP Practice in Arklow who spoke to us have over 200 people on their waiting list hoping to register as new patients. 40% of GP Practices we spoke to in Greystones are not currently able to accept new patients, while the other 60% are only accepting them on a case-by-case basis. Only one GP Surgery in the Bray area told us they are currently able to accept new patients and again this is on a case-by-case basis. While in Wicklow Town one GP surgery advised us that they can only accept new patients on a “one out, one in” basis.”

All GP practices contacted commented that in the case of an emergency they would provide medical care.

“One west Wicklow GP Practice that we spoke to was very concerned because the only other GP in their town had just announced their plan to retire before the end of the year and they had been inundated with calls from worried patients looking to move practice. I have written to the Minister for Health and the HSE asking for an update on the recruitment process to fill this vacancy and what contingency plan is in place if a new GP for the area cannot be found in a timely fashion,” said Ms Whitmore.

“The situation across Wicklow and the wider country is not good enough and as we move into Winter and start to see an increase in flu and respiratory illnesses people need to be able to access local GP care in a timely fashion. Our GP Practices are being pushed to their limits so I am calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to urgently examine GP availability across Wicklow and to implement the supports needed to ensure that people can access local GP care in their community without having to rely on out of hours doctor services or travel long distances for health care,” concluded Deputy Whitmore.

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