The National Association of General Practitioners has warned that patients may soon have to wait up to six weeks for a routine appointment to see a family doctor.

The new president of the association, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, said Ireland is heading towards a similar situation to that in the UK, where there are long waiting lists to see a GP.

Speaking at the association's annual conference in Cork, he said patients may soon have to wait two to six weeks for a routine appointment and a week for an urgent one, due to workload pressures and staffing shortages.

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Dr Ó Tuathail said that the capacity in the primary care system was simply not there and GP services were the last functioning part of the health system.

He predicted that this would add to pressures on the hospital system and emergency departments.

The conference agreed to withdraw a motion on abortion, calling on the Minister for Health to clarify his plans for an abortion service in the event that the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

GPs agreed that they could hold an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the issues at a later stage, after the referendum result is known.