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Here's the one thing Enda Kenny and Joan Burton have definitely agreed on...

Over 70s will be happy with this one.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 8.05pm

THE GOVERNMENT WILL make it a priority to introduce free GP care for the over 70s in the remainder of its term.

The commitment is contained in a draft policy document that has been worked out by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and newly-appointed Tánaiste Joan Burton during the ongoing discussions on the government’s priorities for the remained of its term and the imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

Kenny told the Dáil this afternoon that the policy decision has been made and he does not think it will require legislation to implement.

He said: “The Government has made a decision that all persons over 70 will obviously be entitled to access to GP services.”

However, the Irish Medical Organisation has said the government’s policy in this area is “in completely disarray”.

“The reality is that GPs are overstretched and under-resourced and priority must be given to providing services to those most in need,” Ray Walley of the organisation’s GP committee said.

“We are particularly concerned that the Government is using Free GP Visit Cards as an alternative to medical cards when the two are not comparable.”

It is of little help to an elderly patient to have his GP visit paid for but no support for all the additional services available under medical cards including medication, non medical support services and community services.

The government has already committed to free GP care for all by 2016 and a system of universal health insurance by 2019.

As part of this free GP care is being rolled out to children under six later this year – the legislation for this recently passed the Dáil and is currently before the Seanad.

Discussions between Kenny and the new Tánaiste are continuing with the coalition set to outline its priorities once it has agreed on the Cabinet reshuffle.

This could take place tomorrow at the earliest, but there are some indications it may be delayed until Friday.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan. Originally published 2.23pm

More: The Cabinet reshuffle may not be announced until Friday – but there’s ‘no particular rush’

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Hugh O'Connell

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