Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Community Affairs Bobby Aylward has warned that Government cutbacks to the Rural Practice Allowance are resulting in the erosion of GP care in rural Ireland.

Deputy Aylward pointed out that if the current trend of GP retirements continues then many rural communities face the prospect of having no GP cover in the years ahead.

“Communities in rural Ireland are feeling increasingly isolated as a result of the policies pursued by the Government. The Rural Practice Allowance was originally put in place to support GP care in rural Ireland. However the Government has targeted this scheme for cutbacks since coming to office, and this has resulted in a decline of GP practices outside of large urban areas,” said Deputy Alyward.

“Ireland is expected to experience a significant shortage in GP’s over the next ten years. We are currently training less than 160 GP’s each year but the HSE admits that up to 1,400 new GP’s may be required in the next decade. Rural Ireland will suffer the most as a result of this GP shortage as practices relocate to large urban areas.

“If the current trend continues then GP care will only be available in large urban centres. Communities across Kilkenny will suffer as GP care will likely only be available in areas such as Callan, Thomastown and Kilkenny city in the future. Rural communities have already lost their post offices, Garda stations, banking services and now their healthcare is under threat.

“The Government needs to put in place a comprehensive plan to retain community based GP care. The Rural Practice Allowance must be overhauled to make it attractive for newly qualified GP’s to setup practice in rural areas. Every effort should be made to encourage community based GP care instead of centralising practices in large urban centres,” concluded Deputy Alyward.