Sunday 22 April 2018

Free GP care 'not possible for another decade'

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Eilish O’Regan

The rollout of free GP care for all that was first promised in 2011 will not be possible for another decade.

The timetable was set out by Health Minister Simon Harris today when he outlined proposals for the overhaul of the health service.

However, the grim news is that changes to primary care will be slow, delaying the long-promised free GP care for even longer.

He was appearing before the Committee on the Future of Health Care which is to deliver a ten-year plan for how the health service should be managed later this month.

The Minister failed to outline when the extension of free GP care will be extended beyond the under-sixes.

He told the committee he wants to see an increase in health service capacity in the form of "physical infrastructure and staffing, to address unmet need and future demographic requirements".

Hospital consultants should no longer be allowed earn extra fees for treating each patients and instead their private income could be made part of their overall pay package when they are hired by a hospital.

Labour spokesperson on Health, Alan Kelly, expressed his frustration at the Government's lack of action on extending free GP care for all.

"Today at the Future of Healthcare Committee, it was extremely frustrating to hear the Minister indicate that plans to expand free GP care to all citizens could be delayed by up to a decade.

"Despite promises in the Programme for Partnership Government, it is clear now that extending free GP care is not a real priority for Fine Gael. This can be seen through the fact that in October 2015 the Government committed to free GP care for under-12s. Disappointingly, we have seen no movement on this issue. We know the funds have been set aside to extend the service to older children and the lack of progress on this is a hindrance for families right across the country.

"To date we have seen free GP care provided to the youngest and oldest in our society. It is frustrating that the Government doesn't seem to care that much about providing free GP care for those in-between.

"What we need now is a complete shift in gear by this Government. An agreement needs to be reached on a timely delivery of universal coverage of GP care for all."

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