Free care for under-fives not discussed with GPs, says Irish Medical Organisation

Lack of communication described as ‘extraordinary’

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien: “This is a dose of spin about free GP care for young children from a Minister who, in reality, is going in the opposite direction.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien: “This is a dose of spin about free GP care for young children from a Minister who, in reality, is going in the opposite direction.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 01:00


The Irish Medical Organisation has expressed serious concerns about the Government’s plans to introduce free GP care for under-fives this year despite making no contact with GPs.

Dr Ray Walley, chairman of its GP committee, said it was “extraordinary” there had been no communication from the Government on the proposal.


‘Political statement’
“There are no proposals in relation to resourcing this service – this seems like another political statement with no rationale behind it.

“The Government seems to want credit for introducing this service without even discussing the matter with the very people who have to provide it.”

Dr Walley warned that a major policy change was involved, as well as a “fundamental change” to the terms of the General Medical Service. The IMO was very concerned that patients’ expectations were being raised when resources behind the existing service were already stretched.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that free doctor visits for under-fives were being introduced as part of a phased introduction of free GP care for all age groups. However, negotiations between the Government and the GPs who would operate such a scheme have yet to take place.

The IMO, which is threatening a strike of junior hospital doctors in the autumn, is also involved in a dispute with the Competition Authority over its right to negotiate on behalf of GPs, and any discussions about free GP care may have to await the outcome of this case.


‘Dose of spin’
Sinn Féin dismissed the plan as vague. “This is a dose of spin about free GP care for young children from a Minister who, in reality, is going in the opposite direction,” said Cork TD Jonathan O’Brien.

“The Minister’s plans for universal health insurance have not been set out in any detail. His promise of free GP care for people with long-term illness was broken. This Coalition’s health policy is contradictory, while on the ground it imposes cutbacks to vital care.”