GP’s at the Edge: The GATE study of the Experience of Delivering Care Irish Rural General Practice

Robyn Homeniuk, Monica Casey, Arthur Sieron, Liam Glynn

Keywords: rural health, general practice, delivery of care, rural general practice

Over a third of Irish people live in a rural area, each with their own unique health needs. General practice is a vital health service in these areas, often the most accessible for people living in rural areas. . However, only a fifth of Irish general practices are rural and recruitment of new GPs, distance to other health services, and professional isolation persist as obstacles to sustainability.

Research questions:
What is the real experience of delivering healthcare in rural areas in Ireland? The study will review the challenges and benefits of working in rural general practice from both a physician and nurse perspective.

This is a qualitative study, with data collection occurring via semi-structured interviews. General practitioners and practice nurses were invited to share their experience in choosing a career in rural general practice and what it is like to provide care in these areas.

This is an ongoing study; these results are preliminary. An emerging theme of access to secondary and emergency services as a key challenge for rural GPs has been identified. This may indicate unequal access to services compared to urban areas. Participants consistently shared experiences of being the medical port of call and offering emergency medicine. Nevertheless, all the participants thus far enjoy practising in a rural community. They care for whole families, from ‘cradle to grave’, and build strong relationships which enrich their professional satisfaction. Older rural patients are particularly vulnerable, with barriers like access to transport and living alone, they cannot always easily access care to support their needs. Further interviews are required to develop overall key themes.

Working in rural general practice seems to give great professional satisfaction but does not come without its challenges. Fast access to secondary and tertiary care services was a particular challenge. Final conclusions will be made after completion.

Points for discussion:
What is it like providing care in rural settings in your country?

What barriers do rural healthcare professionals face?

How can we better support the health of rural communities?