GP fees vary wildly from county to county
Published 10/07/2014 | 02:30
PATIENTS who need to see a GP privately can pay between €30 and €65 per visit, depending on where they live.
Family doctors in Portumna in Galway, which has four GPs, offer the cheapest visit at just under €30, while it is most expensive in Dublin, a survey of 650 surgeries revealed.
Leitrim has the lowest average price per visit at €39.17 with doctors in Meath asking for around €39.38 and their colleagues in Donegal charging €41.19.
The average cost is over €50 in Waterford, Kilkenny, Co Cork, Wexford, Westmeath, Carlow, Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin. Nationally, the average price is €49.36, according to the survey by healthcare search engine Whatclinic.com.
Doctors in rural areas tend to be cheaper, as their overheads, such as rent and mortgages on their premises, are lower while the income of the local population can also be less than in towns and cities.
"It can be up to €65 for a top clinic, although that price doubles to €130 for a more convenient home visit," the survey found.
GPs are cautious about giving a breakdown in costs but insist that it is difficult to get a valid comparison as some doctors can include extras such as blood tests in the consultation fee. Others can provide a two-for-one service if there is more than one child.
Some GPs may charge a much lower fee if a patient has to make a return visit or offer other discounts if their upfront fee is in the higher range, the doctors pointed out.
The figures come as GP organisations have been highlighting the financial strain felt by a growing number of family practices in recent years as their payments from state schemes, particularly for medical card holders, have been cut.
A spokeswoman for Whatclinic. com said it had seen a rise of 102pc in enquiries about GP costs in the past two years. The queries about Dublin GP costs are 14 times higher than that of the country's second largest city Cork.
Dr Michael O' Doherty of the Killarney Medical Centre, who was accused of starting a price war when he and his colleague started charging €40 a visit, said when they started two-and-a-half years ago, they made their prices public.
"Most of the local surgeries were charging around €50 but we charged €40 and €25 for secondary school students. We are still €40 for a standard consultation. We felt secondary school students were quite vulnerable and would not come if it was too expensive."
Asked why some GPs can offer the visits at a lower rate, he said: "Every GP practice is essentially a business. If you are offering the reduced rates maybe others who are charging more have more staff and have higher rents.
"We did not buy a building, we are renting. We came in at a different time, in the middle of the recession, and things may have been cheaper. Staff were not demanding the same wages."
He said it was difficult to directly compare like with like. Doctors can charge €10 for a blood test on top of the consultation fee.
Caelen King, chief executive of WhatClinic.com, commented: "Over the past few years we have noticed a steady increase in patients, particularly in urban areas, enquiring about private GP consultations.
"Here in Ireland, we're not in the habit of shopping around for GP services. However, if you are paying for regular private consultations without the benefit of a medical card even a small difference in price can add up over a single year.
"Some GPs do charge more than others as our report shows. I would ask are you paying more than average for your GP visits?"