Older people are able to visit their local GP - no matter where they live, it has emerged.
A study published by the Economic and Social Research Institute did not find “statistically significant” differences in GP visiting among older people.
Lead researcher Gretta Mohan said they were surprised by the finding that ran contrary to claims made by some GPs.
They found that no matter where an older person lived they were able to visit a GP in their area.
“There may be stories of people not being able to get to see a GP but, at the end of the day, this is what our data shows,” said Ms Mohan.
Researchers used data on healthcare use from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a nationally representative survey of over 8,000 people aged 50 years and older.
They looked at the road network distance to the nearest GP, the addresses served by the individual's nearest GP and the number of GPs within walking distance of a person's home.
Statistical methods were used to explore the three access measures and the number of GP visits reported over a 12-month period.
The results did not show that the local supply of GPs is a major barrier to healthcare access to older people in Ireland.
They did find that visiting rates among those who have to pay for GP appointments were higher where there was a greater number of GPs in their vicinity.
However, having a higher number of GPs within walking distance did not influence GP visiting among medical card holders – they must attend the same GP practice to avail of free consultations.
“Our concern from a policy point of view was that if people don't have a GP near where they live that they will not use the service but that is not showing up in our data,” said Ms Mohan.
“The reality is that if people want to go and see their GP they will go. They will get a lift or a taxi.” She said it was “an encouraging result”.
The TILDA study found almost seven out of ten of those interviewed drove a car with almost one in five having access to a car driven by someone else.
At present, there are no restrictions on where GPs can choose to locate.