Reilly signals Government will drop bid to “gag” GPs in proposed new contract
IMO seek talks on deal with GPs to cover all patients and not just young children
Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday he would not preside over a situation in which GPs were “gagged” contractually. Photograph: Eric Luke
The Government has given its first indication plans to introduce a “gagging clause” to prevent GPs speaking out publicly on issues in ways that could be seen as criticising or embarrassing the Health Service Executive will be dropped.
The clause was inserted in the draft contract drawn up by the HSE for GPs taking part in the proposed new service to provide free medical cover for children under six years of age.
The clause in the draft contract stated GPs “would not do anything to prejudice the name or reputation of the HSE”. However, Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday he would not preside over a situation in which GPs were “gagged” contractually.
He said he believed whistleblowers were very important. Dr Reilly also signalled other elements of the draft contract, which has been roundly rejected by GP representative organisations, could be changed.
Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation yesterday called on the Government to begin negotiations on a revised contract to cover GP services for all patients and not just for children under six.
“Government plans for a GP service which is free at the point of entry requires planning, resources and negotiations and the IMO, as the trade union and holder of a negotiating licence, is ready to have full and comprehensive negotiations with the Minister. ”
The IMO accused Dr Reilly of hypocrisy by claiming to be in favour of whistleblowers while trying to impose a contract on GPs that included a “gagging clause” that would silence GP whistleblowers – even where there is a threat to patient safety.
Chairman of the GP committee of the IMO Dr Ray Walley said the draft contract that had been circulated directly contradicted Dr Reilly’s pro-whistleblower sentiments.
Dr Walley said: “The Minister says he is in favour of whistleblowers, but his department is promoting a contract which is in direct contradiction of the Minister’s words.
“This raises serious concerns about how much – if any – involvement the Minister for Health has had in relation to this proposed contract, which is an attempt to fundamentally alter the relationship between GPs and the HSE.”