Free GP care for long-term ill patients
Legislation to provide free GP care to people with long-term illnesses will be published in the current Dáil term, Minister for Health James Reilly has said.
It was promised that the move, which is the first phase in the Government’s plan to extend free GP care to all, would take place in the Government’s first year.
Dr Reilly said yesterday the extension of free GP care had been delayed by complexities involved in drawing up the legislation. Access to a medical card is now being defined on the basis of an illness instead of being based on means. “However, we’re nearly there and the legislation will be published within this session,” the Minister said.
He was speaking at a briefing to coincide with the publication by his department of two documents setting out its plans for health service financing.
One policy document explains the department’s plans to introduce a new “money follows the patient” form of hospital financing from next year.
Under this system, hospitals will be funded on the quantity and quality of the services they deliver to patients.
The second is a preliminary paper setting out the Government’s plan for introducing universal health insurance (UHI) as promised in the programme for government.
The new systems won’t directly affect patients but the department says they should result in more efficient budgeting and, ultimately, improved services for the public.
Dr Reilly said “money follows the patient”, which will replace the current system of block grants for hospitals, is a key building block for UHI and would also deliver significant benefits in its own right.
“The system will provide a fairer and more transparent basis for funding hospital services. It will drive greater efficiency in the delivery of services and will ultimately support the provision of quality care in the most appropriate setting.
“Work is advancing across all areas of the reform agenda. The preliminary paper on UHI provides a progress report on the work we have done so far. It also maps out the critical actions and initiatives to be delivered in the year ahead.”
The department says “money follows the patient” is not a crude tool for cutting budgets.
“The new funding model does not seek to reduce budgets, rather it will encourage hospitals to use the resources at their disposal more efficiently.
“It provides a more transparent funding mechanism and it more fairly rewards hospitals for the activity they undertake,” it says.
The department also says the model “is not about reducing services or closing hospitals” but involves a fairer allocation system for all hospitals.
However, it is likely the system will see some smaller hospitals specialising in certain activities as opposed to offering a broad spectrum of specialities.