We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

File photo Alamy Stock Photo
Stephen Donnelly

Labour criticises Govt as just 3% of those deemed eligible for GP visit card avail of scheme

The HSE is looking into why eligible individuals have not applied for the expanded scheme.

THE LABOUR PARTY has criticised the roll-out of an expansion of GP visit cards after it was revealed that just 3.5% of people deemed eligible as part of the expansion have availed of the scheme to date.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the number of cards issued as part of the income-based expansion is not at the scale that would have been anticipated. 

Holders of GP visit cards do not need to pay to attend the doctor.

As part of the Budget in October, GP visit card eligibility was extended to all those who earn up to the median household income. This took effect from November and followed a phased roll out which began in September. 

In addition to this, eligibility was also extended to all children under the age of 8 from August last year. 

The Minister said it was estimated that approximately 430,000 people would be eligible under the income-based expansion, however to date just 15,000 GP visit cards have been issued under it. This equates to just under 3.5%.

In total, over 77,500 cards have been issued since August. 

Responding to a written parliamentary question from Labour leader Ivana Bacik, the Minister said take up was not where the Government hoped it would be. 

“I recognise that the number of cards issued to date is not on the scale that might have been anticipated,” Donnelly admitted. 

Donnelly said the expansion of the scheme was done alongside an “extensive and wide-ranging” public information campaign to encourage eligible people to take up the cards. 

However, a spokesperson for the Labour party told The Journal the complexity of the process and the documentation required may be what is slowing down uptake.

In a statement to The Journal, Labour’s health spokesperson Duncan Smith said the Government “hasn’t given this the push it needs to make people aware of their entitlements”. 

“The cost of going to the doctor is absolutely prohibitive for some people, it’s a sorry state of affairs but its a reflection of this Government’s failure to develop fully functioning, well funded services like healthcare,” he said. 

Smith said the “failure” to effectively invest in the health service is “crippling tax payers”.

“We need to see a strong information campaign from Government on the income-based free GP care to ensure that everyone who needs it can go to the doctor when they need it.”

According to the Minister, the HSE is currently undertaking research on why potentially eligible individuals have not applied on the scale anticipated. 

Donnelly added that future actions to encourage uptake will be informed by the outcome of that research. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel