Bill providing free GP care for children under six passed

Minister accepts amendment lifting ‘gagging clause’ on GPs

Minister  of State Kathleen Lynch: “It is the first step along the way to ensuring that all our citizens have GP cover.”    Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch: “It is the first step along the way to ensuring that all our citizens have GP cover.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 20:22

The Minister for Health has removed the “gagging clause” in the legislation providing free GP care for children under six. The Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill, passed all stages in the Dáil yesterday.

Leo Varadkar accepted an amendment removing the restriction on GPs speaking out, which was moved by Independent Prof John Crown in the Seanad recently and passed by the House. Prof Crown had argued that GPs would be prevented from expressing their views under the Bill’s terms.

Mr Varadkar said that while it was always the intention to ensure freedom of expression for GPs, Prof Crown’s amendment copperfastened their freedom to voice their opinions or concerns about the health service.

“This Act is a significant step in the Government’s plan to provide universal health care,” he added, “starting with access to general practitioners without fees for children under six. This particular measure is the keystone of the Government’s policy in the area of primary care. We are shifting the focus of healthcare from hospitals to the community, and from treating illnesses to maintaining good health.”

Minister of State for Primary Care, Mental Health and Disability Kathleen Lynch said: “It is the first step along the way to ensuring that all our citizens have GP cover. It will be of enormous benefit to hard-pressed families with young children, helping them to overcome the obstacle of the financial burden of GP care.”