Doctors asked to fund fight against free GP care plan

Group of physicians opposed to under-sixes proposal to launch High Court challenges

The scheme is fiercely opposed by one group representing family doctors, the National Association of GPs, which claims it will cause chaos in general practice. Photograph: Getty Images

Family doctors have been asked to contribute to a €1.5 million “fighting fund” to pay the cost of legal proceedings against the Government’s plan to introduce free GP care for under-sixes.

More than 1,000 GPs have signed up for the new scheme, and parents will be able to register their children from next week, according to the Health Service Executive.

This represents more than 40 per cent of GPs who are currently registered under the medical card schemes.

However, the level of sign-ups varies across different areas, and in some areas such as south Tipperary, a low number of GPs is believed to have agreed to operate the scheme.

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However, the scheme is fiercely opposed by one group representing family doctors, the National Association of GPs, which claims it will cause chaos in general practice.

Court challenges

The association has asked doctors to contribute €1,000 each to the fund, which will be used to fight a number of High Court challenges and a possible legal action by the Consumer and

Competition Protection Commission

.

It has written to its own members, as well as to members of the rival Irish Medical Organisation and doctors who are in neither organisation, urging them to put aside their union differences and support general practice.

The IMO supports the scheme and was involved in negotiating it, but the NAGP was left outside the talks.

Donations

The letter, which has been seen by

The Irish Times

, says the estimated cost of fighting various legal cases is about €1.5 million.

It also claims that donations are 100 per cent tax-deductible and promises any unused money will be returned.

It says the association rejects the claim made by the competition commission that it is encouraging members to engage in a collective boycott of the under-sixes contract, contrary to Irish and EU law.

“The NAGP refutes this charge and will defend this position if the CCPC proceeds with legal action.”

The association has also written to the IMO and to the Irish College of GPs seeking an emergency meeting on the under-sixes issue.

It claims that “chaos” will erupt after the planned start-up date of July 1st if the scheme proceeds as it is currently proposed.

"Patient safety will be put at risk, waiting lists are inevitable and general practice will become like an emergency department," said NAGP chief executive Chris Goodey.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.