‘Most vulnerable’ will suffer GP fee cuts, association says

Representative body says reductions in fees amount to €160 million over past three years

A meeting of the National Association of GPs heard today that the welfare of poorest and most vulnerable patients in the State is being put at risk as the Minister for Health James Reilly continues to take funding out of GP services. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A meeting of the National Association of GPs heard today that the welfare of poorest and most vulnerable patients in the State is being put at risk as the Minister for Health James Reilly continues to take funding out of GP services. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 17:13

The welfare of poorest and most vulnerable patients in the State is being put at risk as the Minister for Health, James Reilly, continues to take funding out of GPservices, a representative body for GPs has warned.

Speaking from a meeting of the National Association of GPs in Portlaoise this afternoon, current chairman Dr Andrew Jordan said there had been a 33 per cent reduction in funding for GP services in the past three years and patients needed to be aware services would be affected.

He also said younger GPs, many of who had completed their training or had spent some time working abroad, were becoming disillusioned and it would be come increasingly difficult to “hold them” in Ireland, while some GPs may have to stop administering the ’flu vaccine to those patients who need it most.

The NAGP was founded in 1987 as the Association of General Practitioners and had gone into abeyance in recent years, said Dr Jordan. It has been in the process of reconstitution since the winter, he said, in response to the level of cuts being imposed on the GP and medical card system in recent years.

About 100 GPs attended the half-day meeting today. Dr Jordan expects membership to grow in coming weeks and months as winter approaches and the cuts impact services.

“In the past three years €160 million has been taken by the Minister out of GP services to patients. That is a 33 per cent cut. Our serious concern is nothing to do with GPs’ profits or salaries but is to do with money for patient services.”

Earlier this month the Department announced fees paid to GPs and pharmacists would be cut by €40 million before the end of the year. Among the specific cuts that would affect GPs was a reduction in the fee for administering the flu vaccine, from €28.50 per vaccine to €15, bringing the fee in line with that paid to pharmacists.

Dr Jordan said the ’flu vaccine may not reach the patients who needed it most. He said while pharmacists will administer the vaccine with ease to people who walk into their premises, one of the functions of the GP has been to “seek out” the patients who really needed it, such as elderly people living alone.

“Often there is more work involved for the GP delivering the service to patients who really need it. It may be that in some cases GPs can’t afford to put that extra work in this winter.”

He said the purpose of the renewed Association of GPs was to advocate for GP services and for GPs’ patients’ needs. He stressed it was not a “trade union” and would not be “cutting across the Irish Medical Organisation” in any way.

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