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Go-ahead given to free GP care for under sixes

The ICGP says that if Cabinet agrees to bring in free GP care, it will be a premature decision.

Image: Teddy doctor via Shutterstock

Updated 1.30pm

THE GOVERNMENT HAS given the go-ahead to free GP care for all children under six.

Cabinet discussed the issue today, and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Alex White TD said that Government approved the Health (General Practitioners Service) Bill 2014.

Cabinet also agreed that the bill should be published and introduced to the Oireachtas.

The decision will see free GP services extended to all children aged under six by mid-2014, as the first phase in the introduction of free GP care for the full population.

“240,000 children across Ireland will benefit from this innovative public health policy. The Government has provided new, additional funding of €37 million to meet the cost of this measure,” said White.

This is really good news for young families and it represents a significant milestone in the reform of our health services.

Minister White said that he will also be contacting the IMO today with a new proposal for initiating talks.

GP appeal

Chris Goodey, CEO of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), has criticised the announcement.

The NAGP informed the Department of Health in February 2014 that it was unwilling to engage in discussion with in circumstances where the Department is refusing to discuss the resourcing of the scheme.

Goodey said he is “very disappointed by the fact that the Minister is continuing to spin that he had his officials are prepared to engage with GPs’ representative bodies, when it is quite clear that the Minister is unwilling to engage in any meaningful sense”.

He said that some GPs are trading insolvently, making redundancies, and many have closed.”

Earlier today, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) urged Cabinet to reconsider bringing in free GP for under sixes until key decisions on Universal Healthcare are made.

Dr Darach O Ciardha, Chair of Communications at ICGP, said that the recently-published white paper for Universal Healthcare “contains little detail on how this policy will operate or what it will cost individuals or the State”.

He said that bringing in such a move before this detail is known “is premature and indicates a lack of coherent planning”.

He said that if cabinet approves this measure today, it is “further evidence of the Government’s unwillingness to consider the views of GPs” on this issue.

ICGP believes that offering free GP care to under sixes when the financial resources of the state are limited “reduces the available resources for those patients who need it”.

The Irish Medical Journal said that this week that the free GP care plan will see an extra three-quarters of a million GP visits every year.

The IMO said that this increase would “overwhelm” surgeries and lead to waiting lists.

First published 12pm

Read: Free GP care will lead to 750,000 extra consultations per year>

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