A leading doctors group has formally withdrawn its case against the Government’s free GP care for under sixes, independent.ie can reveal.
The case brought by Clare GP Dr Yvonne Williams, which was backed by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), will be shelved as it is increasingly unlikely to succeed and would prove extremely costly to proceed with.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) today described its case against the scheme as “not winable” due to the large volume of GPs that have already signed up.
“It became a pointless exercise. The position was untenable,” said NAGP CEO Dr Chris Goodey.
The group of doctors previously said the free GP care scheme for under sixes “does not serve the best interests of general practice or patients”.
The decision to withdraw its opposition and subsequent legal case will come as a boost to Health Minister Leo Varadkar and the Government.
Yesterday, 1,680 GPs had signed up to the scheme - around 68pc. But serious black spots remain as some GPs hold out. Some 30,800 children are registered so far.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he expected between 80pc-90pc of doctors to take part by the end of the year, but there would be some areas with poor coverage.
The NAGP is asking doctors, who are signing up under protest, to include a letter with the contract saying they believe the scheme is "morally wrong" and could put the safety of other patients at risk with the loss of a same-day service. The letter should warn it is an "immoral contract" which will do "unimaginable damage".
The move comes as the minister put a question mark over the Coalition's last pre-election promise to extend free GP care to adults if it is returned after the next election. Although the plan to provide free visits to all under-18s in the coming years remains policy, he confirmed officials were looking at whether the scheme should be just subsidised with a co-payment involved for adults.
The back-to-the-drawing -board exercise is looking at whether adult GP care should be subsidised fully, partially reimbursed through private insurance premiums, or free with the HSE paying the doctor a yearly capitation fee.
It is part of a wider review of the Government's universal healthcare plan to end the two-tier system, which now looks like being scaled back when a revised version appears in the next pre-election manifesto.
Mr Varadkar said: "We are behind schedule." But he added: "We want to make it happen."
He was speaking at the launch of a €1m health charity fund by the medical technology company Medtronic. The company's vice-president, Dr Jacob Gayle, said it would be made available over three years to organisations with innovative ideas on how to remove healthcare barriers in deprived communities.
Not-for-profit, community-based organisations are invited to apply. "The purpose is to promote health," he said.
Mr Varadkar said other companies should follow its lead.