No changes will be made to GP scheme for under-sixes , says Leo Varadkar

More than 1,000 GPs sign contract as Minister says there is ‘no looking back’ on plan

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: likened arguments against the GP scheme for care of under-sixes to opposition to major health reforms in the past. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: likened arguments against the GP scheme for care of under-sixes to opposition to major health reforms in the past. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

No changes will be made to the contract for free GP care for children aged under six, despite the opposition of many doctors, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch have told GPs.

The two Ministers have written to all family doctors seeking to clarify aspects of the proposed scheme, which will come into force on July 1st. Parents will be able to sign up their children for the scheme from next week.

About 1,000 of the State’s 2,700 GPs have so far signed up to the scheme in advance of the deadline tomorrow.

The scheme was negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation but a second organisation, the National Association of GPs, has campaigned vigorously against it.

In the letter, Mr Varadkar and Ms Lynch liken arguments against the scheme to opposition to major health reforms in the past. “They are the same as those used to oppose the mother and child scheme in the 1950s and the development of national health services across Europe in the 1940s.”

“Once done, nobody every looked back. We don’t believe we will either.”

They say a “critical mass” of GPs has signed up and registration of children by their parents will start shortly. This will be a simple online process “easier than booking an airline ticket”.

GPs who choose not to accept the new contract will be paid for their existing medical card under-sixes over the summer, but the Ministers say the old scheme will not be continued “in perpetuity”. Access to GP care without fees is now a legal right for children under six and soon will be for over-70s.

The new contract has been the subject of long and detailed negotiations, they say. “We want to press ahead now with talks on a new main contract and to make sufficient progress before the term of this Government comes to an end so that together we can develop a roadmap for the next.”

They say the new scheme will be closely monitored to see if it results in increased attendances and this will be assessed before it is extended to older children.