Free GP care for under-sixes on agenda

The first steps towards free GP care for the under-sixes is scheduled to be brought before Cabinet today ahead of its planned rollout next year.

The final Cabinet meeting of the year has over 40 items on the agenda. Ministers may also review the HSE’s long-awaited service plan.

They will also discuss reforms in legal services as and the mid-term economic plan, which is due to be published today.

Government sources last night confirmed that Health Minister James Reilly is set to circulate a memo outlining changes in health legislation for free GP care for the under-sixes.

He has said the scheme will be available from the middle of next year and will benefit about 240,000 children.

Changes and reforms of legal services will also be introduced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter at Cabinet.

Amendments to the Legal Services Regulation Bill will include a public complaints procedures for less serious service-type complaints. A levy is also being introduced for solicitors and barristers so that new regulations for practicing are self funding.

Stronger regulations will also be introduced for legal partnerships and practices.

Meanwhile, plans to cut €666m from the health service next year were still being reviewed last night by the economic management council (EMC) — a quartet of cabinet members and unelected advisers.

The report for Dr Reilly outlining how the HSE will be funded in 2014 was still going through an 11th-hour review last night.

Officials are thought to have concerns about whether Dr Reilly’s €666m savings stand up to scrutiny. The report is due to be sent to the Cabinet for approval today, before being published in the coming days.

However, should the EMC continue to have concerns about the details, Dr Reilly will seek more time and announce that further changes must be made.

The long-awaited report provides specific details for how the health service budget will be spent. It is thought a key reason for delays in bringing the plan to Cabinet is the €113m target for cuts to the medical card budget. Leaked correspondence from Tony O’Brien, the HSE director designate to the Department of Health, has made it clear the group has concerns over its impact on patient care.


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