Practising in Ireland does not often spring to mind when UK GPs are looking for employment. Yet Ireland has an acute shortage of GPs while, in parts of the UK, newly qualified GPs face difficulties finding posts.
Ireland trains only 120 GPs per year and the traditional pathway of GPs completing their training in the UK has been closed off, with resultant shortages in the numbers applying for practice posts in Ireland.
Added to this, a lot of our GPs are expected to retire in the next three to five years.
A big demand for GPs
As an example of the difficulty of recruiting GPs, a post in the picturesque town of Slane, County Meath, near the ancient burial site of Newgrange, was recently advertised three times without success.
Starting to practice here would be challenging but in the end, the quality of life and professional satisfaction are hard to beat.
I am a principal in a two-GP partnership in a semi-rural practice in Summerhill, also in County Meath, some 25 miles from Dublin. We employ two job-sharing GP assistants and ours is a GP training practice.
The services we provide are similar to those offered by a UK practice. I was recently appointed as GP adviser to the Health Service Executive in Ireland (our equivalent of your NHS).
I trained in the UK and there is no doubt that we are some way behind the UK in developing a primary care infrastructure.
However, general practice is extremely rewarding in Ireland and there is a wind of change blowing through our health services at the moment, with the realisation that primary care is the only solution to existing and emerging problems with our health service.
We are setting up 530 primary care teams at present, so this is a great time for GPs to get involved in shaping how Irish primary care will look in the future.
GPs with experience in the UK would bring useful skills and would be most welcome to apply for posts in Ireland. We would like to gain from their experience and, hopefully, avoid duplicating mistakes that may have been made in developing NHS primary care.
Ireland has good out-of-hours coverage with GP co-operatives up and running in most areas.
Medical card or general medical services patients have free GP cover. A range of other services including community health, dentistry, prescription medicines and hospital care are also free of charge for these patients.
Most people with medical cards qualify for one because their income is below a certain level, but those for whom the cost of care would cause financial hardship are also eligible.
Approximately 30 per cent of the population have this free care but this is rising because of the current economic downturn.
The remaining 70 per cent pay their GP privately for care. Average consultation fees range from EUR50 to EUR70 (£45 to £62).
Summerhill Medical Centre, County Meath
Two GP partners plus two job-sharing salaried GPs and trainee GP.
Staff include four practice nurses, administrator, visiting podiatrist, dietician, counsellor.
Patients approximately 7,000.
IT fully computerised.
Surgery sessions Monday to Friday 9 to 11.30am (no appointment required) and 3 to 5.30pm (appointments only).
Out of hours GP co-operative.
Patient services include: chronic disease care, family planning, travel vaccination (yellow fever centre), women's health (cervical cytology and breast checks), men's health (prostate checks), childhood vaccinations, 'heartwatch' monitoring of post-MI patients, minor surgery.
My own experience as a GP in Ireland has been extremely positive. There is a minimum of red tape and you are more or less your own boss.
Work is busy and challenging but the patients are very supportive and Ireland is a great place to live and work.
GP salaries vary depending on area and workload. A typical GP could expect to earn up to EUR450 (£400) per session as a locum.
Established full-time GPs could expect an annual income of EUR100,000 to EUR180,000 (£90,000 to £160,400) depending on the location, level of workload and practice expenses.
GPs can apply for medical card lists or to work as salaried assistants before progressing to partnership. There are many locations that are family friendly, well remunerated and professionally satisfying for a GP. With property prices falling, now may be the time for UK GPs to consider a new start in Ireland.
With the low cost airlines running regular services between Ireland and the UK, the prospects for working in Ireland have never been so good.
There is good professional back-up from our Irish College of General Practitioners (www.icgp.ie) that runs local medical education programmes. The Irish Medical Organisation (www.imo.ie) also provides excellent information and help for GPs getting established.
You can find opportunities for medical card lists at the Careers with the Health Executive website: www.careersinhealthcare.ie. Alternatively, practices advertise for assistants in the Irish Medical Times (www.imt.ie) or the Irish Medical News (www.imn.ie).
- Dr Clarke is a GP in County Meath and GP adviser to the Health Services Executive, Ireland
|Opportunities in Ireland|