GPs can still sign up to under-sixes scheme, say ministers

Ahead of today’s deadline for family doctors to sign up to free care for under-sixes, Health Minister Leo Varadkar and his junior minister Kathleen Lynch yesterday wrote to GPs to clarify issues around the scheme and tell those who have not signed the contract that it is not too late to do so.

GPs can still sign up to under-sixes scheme, say ministers

In the correspondence, the minister said they now have a “critical mass” of GPs who have signed up and the registration of children by their parents will begin shortly ahead of the scheme’s commencement in July.

“Registration will be a simple online process and will be easier than booking an airline ticket,” Mr Varadkar and Ms Lynch wrote.

“Parents will be able to select a preferred GP in their neighbourhood. That is why we want to know which GPs are participating by June 5.”

They said contracts submitted after today would still be accepted but those doctors’ names would take a few days to get on the website. That could cause confusion for patients who go to the website and do not find their doctor’s name.

“GPs who choose not to accept the new contract will continue to be paid for their existing general medical services patients under-six for the summer period,” the ministers said. “We have no desire to re-assign patients en-masse, though some patients will choose to move in favour of the enhanced service. While it is reasonable to allow a transition period, it will not be possible to continue the old scheme in perpetuity. Access to GP care without fees is now a legal right for children under-six and soon will be for adults aged 70 and over.”

They insisted there will be no changes to the contract.

The National Association of General Practitioners, which opposes the contracts, has written to both the Irish Medical Organisation, with whom the Department of Health reached a deal, and the Irish College of General Practitioners requesting an emergency meeting between all stakeholders.

NAGP said it was concerned chaos would erupt after July 1 if the scheme proceeded in its current form. It said patient safety would be put at risk.

Chris Goodey, NAGP chief executive, said his body was concerned at the level of division among GPs: “Ultimately, the NAGP, the ICGP and the IMO all want the same thing – appropriate investment and resources for general practice and the ability to provide a safe, effective primary care health service for patients. The best chance we have of attaining that goal is to work together constructively in the interest of all our members and more importantly the patients.”

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