New bid to secure free GP care deal
GPs are being offered a series of incentives to speed up the conclusion of long-running talks on the introduction of free GP care for the under-sixes and the over-70s.
A memo of understanding has been drawn up between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Department of Health that could ensure the talks finish by the end of March.
In return, the doctors are being promised separate fresh talks on their wider medical card contracts dating to 1971 and 1989. These provide GPs with State fees, giving them their core income.
These second round of talks, lasting no more than a year, would look at reversing some of the cuts in fees that have been imposed on GPs operating the medical card scheme since 2009, which many doctors say have plunged them into financial trouble.
The hope is to secure a deal on the under-sixes contract by March 31 - but no fees have been agreed yet. The over-70s care would be covered by existing contracts.
But it will be a matter for each individual GP to decide if they want to sign up to the scheme.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch last night urged doctors to seize the offer.
It comes as a survey carried out by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) and Newstalk radio showed nearly one in three of Ireland's GPs expects they will leave the profession by 2020. Only 16pc would advise their children to enter general practice.
The survey, conducted with the Pat Kenny show, reveals that nearly 47pc of GP practices are currently in debt.