Sunday 23 October 2016

No extension of free GP care to under 12s without talks, doctors warn

Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent

Published 13/10/2015 | 11:27

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

DOCTORS warned today that any moves to extend free GP visits to older children will have to be subject to negotiation.

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Health Minister Leo Varadkar is set to announce that free GP visits will be extended to all children under 12 years, possibly by the end of next year.

It follows the decision to provide free GP visits to under sixes and all over-70s this summer.

However. Dr Padraig McGarry , GP spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation, said that there will be no extension until the union has negotiation a new contract for treatment medical card holders.

The new contract will have to incorporate new payment and more incentives to treat patients with ongoing illnesses such as diabetes.

He said their preference is to give people medical cards based on patient need rather than on age.

GPs have protested at cuts in fees in recent years which have led to more practices becoming unviable and caused younger GPs to emigrate.

Any additional group of children who would be entitled to free GPs threatens to overwhelm many practices unless more resources are provided.

The National Association of General Practitioners which also represents GPs is expected to demand to be part of the negotiations.

They were strongly against the extension of free GP visits to the under sixes.

The majority of GPs are now signed up to provide the free GP visits to the under sixes although thousands of children are still not registered.

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