GPs needed in each area if 'under six' plan to work
At least two doctors in each community must take up the 'free GP care for children under six' contract if it is to reach "critical mass".
Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said she hoped to see 100pc uptake by GPs, but accepted that was not going to happen.
"I hope there is enough to create critical mass, that there will be someone in every community that will be available. Now that will be a struggle for people, but I suppose with all change in systems which is as significant as this, you are always going to have people that don't agree with it - but it usually settles down.
"Critical mass would be that you would have at least two GPs in any community that would be signing up. Critical mass, I suppose, is a critical mass of enough GPs that will be able to deliver the service," she added.
The minister was speaking after addressing GPs at the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) conference in Galway.
She told doctors she did not believe there should be any moral dilemma to signing up to the contract, telling the conference that she had "very few principles" but was a very moral person.
"We can argue about whether or not something is right or wrong, or how it's delivered or not delivered. And we can argue about whether it's the right cohort that needs to get it and I've no difficulty with any of those things.
"I do have a difficulty with it somehow becoming a moral dilemma. I think I'm probably a very moral person, not great on the principles element of it but very moral person, and I believe in right or wrong. So we can have the argument about is it the right group, is it the right way to do it, all those, we can have that argument. But I don't go for the moral or the principle thing, I just don't go with that - I still think it's the right thing to do," she said.
The minister allayed fears that a practice could still continue GP training if they failed to sign up to the contract, insisting it would have no impact on this.
She added that parents would have the choice not to accept the free GP care for children, but would have to move to a practice that has signed up to the contract if they wanted to avail of it. She now hopes further groups can be added in a year.