Huge rise in children under six brought to GP for free
The extension of free GP care to under-sixes has led to a big jump in parents bringing their young child to the doctor.
The marked increase has particularly been seen by GP co-ops, where family doctors provide urgent out-of-hours cover in the evenings and weekends.
GPs in North East Doctor (NEDOC) covering Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and Louth, have reported a 61pc rise in under-sixes in October, compared to attendances in the same month last year.
Meanwhile D-Doc, which covers north Dublin, saw a 52pc rise in this age group.
Free GP care was extended to all children under six in July by Health Minister Leo Varadkar who recently said 214,000 have been signed up for the service.
It comes as a new report published today warns that GPs who provide medical card and other State services need a new contract with allowances built in.
These are needed to enable GP practices to employ extra GPs to cope with the increased pressure for consultations as more patients are brought into the system.
The report, which was compiled by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) following consultation with GPs across the country, sets out key issues of concern to the minister amid government plans to extend free visits to older groups of children from next year.
It says that if GP care is to be made free at the point of access to increasing age groups, GPs will essentially be employees of the State.
They will require an employee contract similar to that offered to a hospital consultant. This contract should include pension, sick leave and all the usual entitlements of State employees, as well as the provision of premises and staff, IT and overheads.
"If, on the other hand, GPs are to remain self-employed with all the risks entailed... a different system will be needed," the report points out.
As well as supports for rural GPs, family doctors in deprived urban areas also require help, the report added.