A HSE tweet urging parents to bring children under six with "cuts, scrapes and allergies" to their GP was withdrawn from the social media site Twitter yesterday after it caused a storm among doctors.
The tweet provoked strong comment from GPs who are already fearing they will be inundated with children suffering trivial complaints when visits for under-sixes are free from next month.
It was accompanied by a drawing of children playing hopscotch with the phrase "Free GP care for the under-sixes. Hop to it!"
A spokeswoman for the HSE said the tweet was deleted as it was poorly worded and had caused offence and upset to some individuals on Twitter.
A second tweet said: "Poorly thought out wording on our previous tweet. Apologies. No offence or upset was intended."
Earlier, GPs responded to the tweet. Dublin GP Dr Conor McGrane commented: "So this deal will not lead to extra visits? HSE should be ashamed."
Dr Grainne Pinaqui remarked: "Are you actively trying to antagonise GPs. No respect for us."
Dr Eoin Mac Donncha, in a tweet to Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch, said: "Real illnesses here."
Meanwhile, the HSE said yesterday that more GPs have now signed up to the contract agreeing to give free GP visits to under-sixes from July 1.
As of yesterday 1,883 GPs had signed up, bringing the proportion of doctors willing to operate the scheme to 78pc.
However, its means that 544 eligible doctors have yet to say they will support with scheme.
Meanwhile, the Pfizer health index yesterday showed that around 25pc of the population are now without private health insurance or a medical card.
This amounts to around 871,000 people who have neither insurance or a medical card. This compared to 1.1 million in 2014.
The survey showed that during the recession there was a fall in people visiting their GP either for a check-up or because they felt unwell.
"This trend now appears to be reversing with 43pc reported having visited their GP in the last three months for a check-up compared to 38pc in 2014.
"In 2015 some 31pc claim to have visited their GP because they were unwell, compared to just 26pc in 2014."
Overall, the trend shows that more people are now attending their GP compared to 2008.
The index, which tracked health trends and behaviour over a decade, said that since 2010 there had been a decline in people with health insurance, dropping from 44pc to 33pc in 2014.
"However, this year sees a reversal of the trend with 36pc of people now claiming to have health insurance."
It said that during the recession, an increasing number of people were entitled to medical cards and this rose to 44pc in 2012. It fell in 2013 and 2014 but has risen again to 43pc this year.