Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol are announcing major changes to the GP scheme and fresh money already in the state budget.
Less than 20 minutes ago
– It is not enough to tinker with the GP scheme, it must be thought through thoroughly. We will rebuild it, is the message from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol when they meet VG.
Experts, GPs and politicians have long feared that the whole scheme will succumb due to a lack of doctors. Many municipalities are struggling to hire new people, because the workload is too great.
In June wrote VG about how a new municipal doctor’s office would solve the crisis in Bergen. Instead, there was a complete collapse: On certain days, there were no doctors present and the patients went to the emergency department.
– The situation has gone from a concern to real challenges, says Kjerkol and refers to, among other things drunkemergency department this summer.
To ensure that the general practitioner scheme is the “foundation wall” in the health service, many new doctors are needed to fill positions around Norway.
– 175,000 Norwegians are without a GP and many are listed with a GP who is in their 60s. This is going to get worse and that is the reason why we are now setting up a committee that will work quickly, says Kjerkol.
– The GP scheme has been neglected in recent years. We have seen the danger signs, with both a recruitment crisis and a departure crisis. Many young doctors are positive about the general practitioner profession, but they want livable working hours, says Støre.
Kjerkol himself has met GPs who say they are considering quitting their jobs. She asks them to “hold on” a little longer.
The government’s new committee will deliver its first report in December. The first proposals from the committee come in this autumn’s state budget, which is the first thing the Støre government creates from scratch itself.
Among other things, the committee must find ways to:
Increase capacity by recruiting more doctors.
Make it easier for the municipalities with permanent employment of GPs by permanent employment.
Make it more attractive for medical students to choose the GP profession.
– In this work, we have a close and good dialogue with, among others, KS and the Medical Association, says Kjerkol.
The committee is chaired by Kjetil Telle, subject director for health services research at the Institute of Public Health (FHI).
Fear of privatization
– The GP scheme accounts for between 80 and 90 per cent of all patient treatment and is the gate opener to the specialist health service and hospitals, says Støre.
– If we don’t take a thorough look at this now and are willing to look at what tasks the GPs are given and the way it is financed, then we are speeding up the privatization of the health service, says Støre.
He singles out private health insurance and mobile doctors as examples of solutions people choose when GP queues are too long.
– Then we get increased differences in Health Norway and poor use of resources.
Can get increased income
The GPs’ income consists of a subsidy per patient they have on the list and rates for individual tasks they carry out.
The rates consist of refunds from the National Insurance and deductibles.
– The committee must assess whether the funding is arranged correctly to compensate for the burden and workload. Among other things, they must assess whether the fixed part of the funding should be increased, says Støre.
The income of the GPs consists of an amount per person on the list, rates for treatment and deductibles.
– The committee shall not look at deductibles from the patients. We want them to be as low as possible, emphasizes Kjerkol.
Normally, GPs are self-employed.
– The clear feedback from young doctors is that they want other forms of work, such as permanent employment, says Kjerkol.
The Solberg government also tried to solve the GP crisis. The action plan from 2020 should ensure an investment of NOK 1.6 billion for the public health service by 2024.
– The action plan that has worked for two and a half years has not produced the desired effect. Despite an increase in the number of GPs in recent years, population growth and a shorter list of new GPs means that the total capacity is decreasing, says Kjerkol.
– It will cost
A year ago lost Ask to spend NOK 350 million more on saving the GP scheme. The party was then in opposition. Now neither he nor Kjerkol knows the price tag on the power roof.
– It will cost money, admits Støre.
– But we need to look at how we invest in the health service as a whole. A sustainable GP scheme saves the rest of the health service. A non-functioning GP scheme increases costs in the healthcare system. Many are not treated in time and serious situations have to be treated in hospital.
– The GP is the answer to prevention, early intervention and public health, emphasizes Støre.
They believe that several specific patient groups will benefit from the offer being strengthened:
– I think we will see better follow-up of people with chronic conditions in particular, says Kjerkol.
Requires budget funds
President of the Medical Association, Anne-Karin Rime, is positive about the work the government is initiating, but demands that money be included in the budget this autumn:
– Recruitment to the GP scheme is still not good enough, and it is just as important that we retain the experienced doctors in the years to come. It is crucial to have measures and funding already in the national budget for 2023, she says, and continues:
– We must also continue the good dialogue in order to achieve effective measures, so that both the general practitioner scheme and the ambulance scheme will be as good as possible in the future as well.