German ministers greenlight plan to improve healthcare at GPs

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
German ministers greenlight plan to improve healthcare at GPs
A sign outside a GP's surgery in Baden-Württemberg advertising the opening hours. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Silas Stein

German ministers approved a plan to improve care for patients in doctors' surgeries and secure the future of GPs amidst a wave of retirements.


Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) presented his plans to reform GP surgeries to cabinet on Wednesday morning, with the aim of propping up this struggling sector of German healthcare. 

The draft includes several proposals to improve the pay and working conditions of local GPs, for example by lifting a cap on overtime remuneration and streamlining the care of chronically ill patients.

This is intended to help stem the wave of GP retirements and secure the quality of care in doctors' offices. 

According to recent statistics, the number of practising GPs in Germany rose to 51,389 at the end of last year - up by 75 compared to 2022.

However, 37 percent of doctors in Germany are over the age of 60, prompting fears of an impending wave of retirements and a severe shortage of qualified practitioners.

Another key issue is the number of GPs that opt for part-time rather than full-time work. In 2023, around 85 percent of GPs worked full-time hours, compared to 98 percent in 2009.

READ ALSO: Why it's becoming harder to get a doctor's appointment in Germany

Experts say the shortage of qualified doctors, particularly in western Germany, is one reason for the long waiting times often faced by patients and the difficulty in finding appointments. 

Explaining the rationale for the reforms, the draft states that GPs are often the first point of call for patients and that local doctors "are able to treat the majority of medical complaints competently and quickly."

This alleviates the strain on other parts of the healthcare sectors and prevents patients from using more expensive services such as hospital emergency rooms when it is unnecessary to do so. 


In his current reform recommendations, Lauterbach has also included plans to make healthcare services more transparent and improve psychological care for children and adolescents.

However, some earlier proposals - including plans to exclude homeopathic treatments from statutory insurance coverage - have been put on ice for the time being amid opposition from cabinet ministers. 



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