Burton confirms her department paid GPs €25 million for sick cert fees

Highest single payment over €100,000

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: her department paid a total of €25 million in 2012 for medical certs

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: her department paid a total of €25 million in 2012 for medical certs

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 04:00

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has confirmed that one medical practice was paid more than €101,000 by the State for certifying patients not fit for work last year.

Ms Burton said her department paid a total of €25 million in 2012 for medical certificates and reports for illness and disability related schemes, in response to a parliamentary question from Labour TD Kevin Humphreys.

Doctors are paid an €8.25 fee for completing and submitting a form to the department where they are satisfied that a patient is incapable of work due to some specific illness, disease or bodily or mental disablement.

Last year €20,800,725 was paid for 2,521,300 certificates, while €4,216,378 was paid for reports, giving a total of €25,017,103. The highest payment to a certifier was €101,749.78 - an increase on the previous year’s highest figure of €100,940.

Ms Burton said it should be noted that certifier payments covered practices involving a number of doctors in some cases. In 2010, the highest payment was almost €83,000, to a practice with 13 GPs.

The Minister said she could not supply the names of the highest-earning certifiers for “data protection reasons”.

The total figure is down from the €31 million spent in 2011, but Mr Humphreys said “too much money is being spent in a non-productive manner” and called for further savings to be achieved.

Ms Burton said she was examining ways to reduce the number of certificates that are furnished under the illness benefit scheme. The department was on target to achieve its budgeted expenditure of €20.75 million in this area in 2013 and close monitoring of the expenditure would continue during the year.

Mr Humphreys’ comments were described as “counterproductive, disingenuous and simply unhelpful” by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) which is holding its EGM in Portlaoise today.

The association’s chief executive Chris Goodey praised Ms Burton and her Department for “spearheading” reforms in the sector. “The department is pro-actively weeding out inappropriate payments; something that the NAGP and it members welcome as mutually beneficial to the department and to GPs,” he said.

“In response to Labour TD, Kevin Humphreys’s comments these are counterproductive, disingenuous and simply unhelpful. The NAGP and it members are committed to working closely with the department to reduce these payments and bring about positive reform.”

Employees who are sick and out of work for more than three days can claim for illness benefit from the department. Payment of the benefit is conditional on a doctor signing an initial certificate following a medical examination and then signing further certificates on a weekly basis.

Annually, on average, the department paid €8,653.44 to participating doctors’ practices in 2012. This figure is down from the average payment of €10,859 in 2011.