Free GP care for under-6s scheme delayed

Minister says introduction of €37m plan by the autumn a ‘realistic prospect’

The free GP care plan for under 6s has been delayed, Minister for Primary Care Alex White has admitted. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The free GP care plan for under 6s has been delayed, Minister for Primary Care Alex White has admitted. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 14:28

Government plans to introduce free GP care for children aged under six are running behind schedule, Minister for Primary Care Alex White has admitted.

Mr White told the Oireachtas Health Committee today that the scheme would not be introduced as planned by the summer. He said the €37 million allocated for the proposal was still available and it was likely that the scheme would be introduced in the autumn.

Mr White said he favoured the “rapid rollout” in successive phases of more free GP care for different groups in society. The legislation for introduced free care for under-6s was a “stepping stone” not “an end itself”.

The Government’s ultimate aim is to introduce free GP care for all by 2016, but the latest delay suggests this deadline may be difficult to adhere to. Though the way has been cleared for the Department of Health to talk to the Irish Medical Organisation about the Government’s plans for free care for under-6s, it is not clear when these talks will take place.

Mr White told the committee he hoped engagement with the IMO would get underway “very quickly”. He said the €37 million set aside for the measure could not be spent until it was introduced, and emphasised that the €13 million allocated for the reinstatement of medical cards was separate from the funding of the under-6s scheme.

As for the timing of the introduction of the under-6s scheme, he said: “We did say June/July. It’s not going to be June/July. I see it as entirely possible that we can implement this for the autumn. That’s a realistic prospect.”