Health service cannot continue to be run as it is, Minister says

Simon Harris says too much done in hospitals rather than primary care setting

HSE Director General Tony O’Brien, Professor Tom O’Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice, Trinity College, Minister for Health Simon Harris and HSE National Director of Primary Care John Hennessy  at the launch of report on primary care. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

HSE Director General Tony O’Brien, Professor Tom O’Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice, Trinity College, Minister for Health Simon Harris and HSE National Director of Primary Care John Hennessy at the launch of report on primary care. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

The latest report on primary care services shows we “cannot continue to run the health service the way that it is being run,” Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

The health service requires an additional half a billion euro a year of transitional funding over 10 years to move to a properly functioning primary care GP based system, a report published on Monday states.

“For years and years, Ministers have been talking about making a decisive shift to primary care,” Mr Harris said on Monday.

“We now have clear evidence-based reports that show the absolute benefit of this, that show how we cannot continue to run the health service the way that it is being run. We are doing far too much in our hospitals that other countries do in the primary care setting.”

A Future Together: Building a Better GP and Primary Care Service, commissioned by the HSE, was produced by researchers at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College Dublin.

The report finds that consultants consider the reallocation of funds from hospital to general practice as key . It says too many patients are being unnecessarily funnelled into secondary care because of the weakness of primary care resources, with no direct access to diagnostic services .

Mr Harris said the findings are not “an optional extra” and that it is “absolutely essential that we reform the way we deliver health services in Ireland”.

“There is obviously a clear need to have early access to safe and clinically effective treatments in the community delivered through a properly functioning health service that can provide what I like to call better care closer to home,” he said.

Mr Harris said he would like to see agreement reached with GP representatives in the coming months with a new “modern” GP contract rolled out next year.

“I’m not going to hide my policy view on this, I have a very simple view in relation to access to GP care, I still believe too many parents go to bed at night worrying about being able to pay €55 or €60 for their child to see the doctor in the morning. “I believe the discussion about primary care cannot just be about those with a medical card, it has be about affordability,” he said.

“I have mentioned that the idea of copayment is something that Slaintecare [Oireachtas report on future of healthcare] leaves open...or indeed a certain number of visits a year, these are all things that we can look at,” he added.

Mr Harris said he does expect to see “new services” being provided by GPs in 2018. “I always said it would be a multi-annual approach so I expect there will be more services in each and every year.”