Initiative to treat diabetes patients at GPs rather than hospitals is launched

Programme seen as a forerunner for the switch to care in the community

More than 1,000 patients with diabetes or at risk of the disease are to be enrolled in a structured care programme providing treatment at their local GP surgery rather than in hospital.

The initiative from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) is supported by the VHI, in the insurer’s first venture into chronic disease management in the community.

The programme launched by Minister for Health Simon Harris on Monday is seen as a forerunner for the switch to care in the community, and away from hospitals, as proposed in Slaintecare.

However, the ICGP’s link-up with a private insurer was criticised by some doctors on social media. Dublin GP Mark Murphy said it was not in the Sláintecare model of phased, publicly-funded health entitlements and there had been no debate about it.


As part of the programme, Vhi customers in selected areas with Type 2 diabetes, or who are at risk of diabetes, will attend for regular check-ups to monitor their condition and help reduce complications.

Structured care programmes for patients with diabetes have proven effective in helping diabetic patients to better manage their condition, with the close relationship between the patient and their GP helping to delay the onset of complications.

"Giving patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes a structured care programme enables them to better manage their condition, reduce complications, and stay well," said Dr Velma Harkins, the ICGP's chair of quality, safety & standards. "It is also very cost-effective."

A structured care programme can include blood pressure monitoring, foot assessments, referral to retinal screening, medication, education and lifestyle interventions.

Mr Harris said the programme would enable and empower patients to better manage their own chronic conditions through self-care management. “It is proven that prevention, early identification and self-care management will result in better patient outcomes, more cost-effective care and reduced service demand, particularly reduced demand on acute hospital inpatient and outpatient services.”

Over 200,000 Irish adults have diabetes, and the number of patients with the disease is expected to increase by 60 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years. The cost to the health budget is €1.8 billion annually, including €900 million on complications.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

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