Tendering process for out-of-hours GPs axed

A KEY part of the Government’s €70 million plan to tackle the A&E crisis has suffered a major setback with the axing of the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) tendering process to extend out-of-hours GP cover.

Yesterday, the HSE confirmed it had terminated a tender process for an out-of-hours GP service in North Dublin and would “pursue alternative arrangements” to put the service in place.

The service was mooted by Tánaiste Mary Harney as part of the panacea to overcrowding in A&E departments in the Mater and Beaumont Hospitals.

It was part of her 10-point plan outlined in the 2005 health estimates, aimed at minimising the need for people to go to A&E.

The HSE blamed the poor quality of the submissions received during its tender process.

It claimed: “The requirement for patients to be seen and treated by fully qualified GPs had not been met.”

A HSE spokesperson disclosed the tenders submitted could not guarantee a GP-led service.

It is understood junior doctors were being proposed to provide the out-of-hours cover.

A statement from the HSE said it could not “countenance lessening the standards it has set for this essential service and would be failing in its duty if it was to do so”.

Tadhg O’Brien, assistant national director (Dublin North East) for Primary Community and Continuing Care Services, including North Dublin, said: “Unfortunately, the proposals submitted did not meet a number of our critical quality criteria”.

The Irish Medical Organisation is reported in the Irish Medical Times as being extremely annoyed with the HSE decision.

Its GP committee chairman Dr Martin Daly said: “There is grave disappointment among GPs in north Dublin who had committed to the process.”

Yesterday, Labour Party health spokesperson Liz McManus said the HSE decision would have “major repercussions” for A&E services in North Dublin.

“I am calling on the minister to issue a clear statement as to how she intends to deal with this mess,” she said.

“This latest blow does nothing for morale inside or outside the HSE and raises serious questions about the minister’s ability to live up to her own commitments.”

The HSE said it would now engage directly in wider consultation with groups who can supply out-of-hours GP services.

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