GP calls for more awareness of 'minor illnesses' as parents clogging services with 'snotty-nosed' children
Many parents visit GPs with "snotty-nosed" children thinking they have meningitis, a leading doctor warned.
There is a need for more education of the public about minor illnesses, said Dr Tom O'Dowd, a practising GP in Tallaght and Emeritus Professor of General Practice in Trinity College.
Commenting on the extension of free GP care to under-sixes, Dr O'Dowd said it was contributing to higher numbers of children being brought to out-of-hours services run by GPs to provide evening and overnight cover.
"You have parents taking their children to the out-of-hours service after the crèche. They may have got a call from the crèche that 'little Johnny needs to see the doctor'," he told the Oireachtas Health Committee.
Meanwhile, Dr O'Dowd warned that getting access to scans for public patients, including ultrasound and X-rays, is now worse than five years ago.
Many surgeries which have suffered a drop in State fees are currently "just hanging on".
He added that several practises are in a brittle state after working through a particularly hard winter.
"Worryingly, poor access to diagnostics was cited by GPs in training as a factor in leaving general practice," said Dr O'Dowd.
Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came under fire for suggesting some GPs are referring too many patients to A&E.
But one of the factors for a patient's referral is often the need for them to undergo a vital scan.
Dr O'Dowd said rather than sending a patient to hospital for a scan, where they can be "dehumanised", the GP should have direct access to basic scans in the community.
Dr O'Dowd, who has overseen a report on primary care in Ireland, said there needs to be a shift away from reliance on hospitals.
He added that while this is the consensus among politicians and policy makers, it brings its own financial challenges.