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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Three-quarters back Reilly's 'free care for under-sixes' plan

Published 27/06/2014 | 02:30

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Dr Anne Nolan
Dr Anne Nolan

Three-quarters of people are in favour of Health Minister James Reilly's plan to give free GP care to all under-sixes – but one in 10 oppose it, according to a major survey.

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It came as the Dail yesterday approved the legislation, paving the way for it to proceed to the Seanad.

The measure was due to be introduced in July but has been delayed until the autumn.

Support for the proposal – due for introduction in the autumn – is much stronger among parents of young children and those aged between 25 and 50. But one third of the over 65s are against the move or undecided.

The findings have emerged in the ninth Pfizer index which tracks the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of the public to their own health and the health service annually.

The survey of 1,000 people found that 47pc were strongly in favour of extending GP visit cards to all children aged five and under, while three-quarters were broadly in favour.

Yet, just over one in 10 were strongly against it.

The survey also showed that 71pc would put the provision of more hospitals or hospital beds at the top of the list if they were minister but coming second for the first time is the introduction of free universal healthcare, which the Government says will be in place by 2019.

The results show that they would favour universal healthcare even if increased taxes were needed. One fifth of people now give their vote to universal healthcare.

The proportion of people who want to provide more medical cards has gone up from 22pc in 2011 to 25pc in 2014.

Asked who they thought should be the first to get greater health benefits such as medical cards, the highest support was given to married people.

This was followed by older people and then single parents of young children.

Support was highest for married people with families.

The survey shows that since 2010 the proportion of adults holding private medical insurance has fallen from 44pc of the population to 33pc in 2014.

It said that the "rate of decline was more pronounced between 2010 and 2012, but has slowed in recent years.

Over the same time period, the number of people with medical cards had climbed to a high of 44pc in 2012, at just under 1.6 million people, but has since retracted to 1.4 million or 39pc of the population in 2014.

"As numbers with both private cover and medical cards has fallen, we see a growth in the number of the people who have neither private insurance nor a medical card; this group constituted 23pc of adults in 2011 but has risen to 31pc."

Other findings reveal:

* More than half said the health service is the area which has suffered most due to cuts in spending.

* The number of people smoking is at an all-time low, with 25pc of adults over age 16 still lighting up – down from 33pc.

* Four out of five feel their current level of disposable income is unlikely to improve in 2014.

* There is a 6pc increase in the prioritisation of the health and welfare of one's family in 2014 compared with 2013. Around 30pc say that the health and welfare of their family would be their greatest concern. Personal health comes in second as a leading concern at 20pc, with finances and money ranking next at 19pc.

Commenting on the findings Dr Anne Nolan of the ESRI said: "The series of austerity Budgets has led to huge challenges for the public health system in delivering safe services with fewer resources.

"At the same time, the public health system is expected to meet the demands of an ageing population with increased levels of chronic disease.

"This is reflected in public concern about cutbacks to the public health system and increasing support for the provision of universal healthcare."

Irish Independent

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