'Whenever a service is free, it's abused and demand increases'
Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30
Clonmel GP Dr Kevin Kelly was among a group of doctors who resisted signing up for the under-sixes free visit scheme - before eventually joining.
However, he now believes that his worst fears have been realised. "We have more children accessing the service who do not need it."
Some parents are misusing it and ringing doctors in the morning looking for an appointment if their child has a minor complaint.
"Before they would have held out for a day or two and seen if the child improved. Those calls would have been dramatically less.
"Parents now feel an obligation and pressure because the service is free to bring the child to the GP."
He added: "Whenever you have a service that is free, it will be abused. It will increase demand."
His practice of eight doctors now can no longer offer routine same-day appointments because of the escalation in workload from various fronts, including the under-sixes.
For instance, older patients who are facing longer hospital lists for procedures such as hip and knee operations are having to visit their GP more for pain injections.
Many over-70s are more dependent on their GP.
"We still have lots of patients struggling. When there are limited resources they should be used for the greater good," said Dr Kelly.
"Children have to be weighed and measured at age two and five under the scheme.
"Whoever decided that has never tried to measure the height of a two year old. It is so difficult to get them to stand straight. The value is questionable.
"You don't need to medicalise a problem of overweight in a child."
He said around 20pc of his patients who have children under six have not taken up the free scheme and pay for the service.
"Some have a moral objection to it."
He thinks GPs are not seeing much financial gain from the scheme.
"You can only see so many patients in a day or else you will end up making mistakes. A lot of GPs are disillusioned and demoralised."