Reilly says free GP care for all will be introduced by 2016
Minister wants free care for under fives to be introduced next year
Minister for Health James Reilly: said introducing free GP care for all children under five would cost about €40 million. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
Minister for Health James Reilly has said he believes universal free GP care will be introduced by 2016.
He also said he wants to start this process with the introduction of free GP care for children under five next year although he acknowledged that this had not yet been agreed by the Cabinet.
However the Irish Medical Organisation, which represents GPs, strongly criticised the Minister and said it seemed that he was “not serious” about the proposed initiative.
Dr Ray Walley, chairman of the organisation’s GP committee said the Ministers’ approach to this issue was “appalling”.
“Over recent weeks Minister Reilly and Minister [of State Alex] White have repeatedly raised hopes of a dramatic extension of free GP care for young people yet neither has made any attempt to engage with the GPs who they expect to provide this service. This suggests either an utter disregard for the people who will be responsible for delivering this service or an extremely cynical approach to politics and policy.
“It strikes us that the Minister is not serious about policy and not serious about this initiative.”
He said the extension of free GP care for any section of the population required careful planning and resourcing.
“GPs would welcome a carefully planned and resourced extension of GP services to under-fives but they have to be resourced properly to be able to provide this service. So far there is no sign of any interest by the Government in even discussing the issues involved with GPs which suggests they have little expectation of actually implementing the initiative.”
In an interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio yesterday, Dr Reilly said introducing free GP care for all children under five would cost about €40 million.
The Minister also promised that the target of ensuring no one had to wait longer than a year for a consultant appointment following a GP referral would be met, or very nearly met, by the end of December.
“I’ll put my hands up and say I can’t guarantee 100 per cent, but I guarantee you will see a massive reduction by the end of December in that figure.”
More than 87,000 people are currently waiting more than 12 months for a first appointment with a consultant.
Dr Reilly also said he intended to publish a White Paper on his plans for universal health insurance by the end of the year.