Long-running talks to hammer out a new contract with GPs are set to conclude in the coming days, the Health Minister has confirmed.
However, Simon Harris has indicated that more work is required to get doctors to agree to extend free care to older children.
Every child under the age of six currently receive free GP care and Mr Harris has been pushing to extend this to include all children under 12. However, this has been held up by opposition from doctors.
The current GP contract has not been renewed for around 40 years and negotiations on a new agreement have been going on since early 2017. However, both sides have been engaged in intensive discussions since October of last year.
While the Minister and the Department of Health are willing to restore some of the cuts that were made during the economic recession, they are adamant that more services must be provided by community doctors.
Mr Harris said:
"I am pleased to confirm that we are nearing a conclusion in our talks with GPs, major priority of mine and indeed the Taoiseach's to put in place a new contract with GPs."
He added that the Government must ensure that existing primary health and GOp services are sustainable.
"It is absolutely Government policy that we would extend free GP care to more children. GPs have worked with us to do that for children aged zero to six, I'd like to increase that, but the talks are nearing a conclusion as opposed to have been concluded and I would hope to be in a position to confirm more details of this in the coming days.
"There is a piece of work that remains unfinished as to expanding GP care for more children," said Mr Harris.
It is understood that a new deal with GPs could cost around €200 million over a number of years and would address pay reductions imposed under financial emergency legislation. However, FEMPI restoration will be linked to the provision of additional services or new work.
It is believed that the agreement could introduce new services for medical-card patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular conditions as well as extending free GP care to children up to the age of 12.