Doctors told there is ‘no pot of gold’

Health Minister James Reilly has warned doctors there is “no pot of gold at the end of the industrial relations rainbow” after facing criticism over reforms of work practices and potential changes to services they provide.

After a week in which doctors said they will not take part in the first step towards free GP care unless their clinics receive more money and concerns over a new grade of hospital doctor, Dr Reilly faced down claims his reforms are not working.

“I think in health people are being realistic and realise there is no pot of gold at the end of the industrial relations rainbow,” he said.

“We’re right on track in terms of reform. People are in a hurry, they want to see change very quickly, but they should all understand that health is like a large tanker out at sea. Health is a huge thing to change, it can’t change overnight, but I’m very pleased to see the changes we’ve seen on the ground.”

Dr Reilly said he has “no intention” of increasing payments to GPs, a move that may put his universal healthcare plans on a collision course with the powerful medical group.

He also used the conference to reveal plans for chronic illness services to be moved from hospitals into the primary care sector from the second half of this year.

The initiative will be rolled out at 15-20 “demonstrator model” centres this year before a full transfer of services in 2013.

He said the move is taking place as 95% of these illnesses could be more quickly treated at primary care level, and because transferring the service to GPs will increase space for other patients in hospitals.

A nationwide diabetes programme will also be implemented this year, Dr Reilly said, with similar cardiac, respiratory and neurological care improvements also on the agenda for 2014.

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