Belfast Telegraph

Blueprint paves way for free GP and hospital care for patients

GP and hospital care would be free for everyone under a 10-year-plan to reform the health service.

The blueprint, drawn up by a committee of TDs with cross-party political support, also proposes that prescription charges be slashed.

If implemented, charges for public hospital patients would be dropped from almost immediately while free GP visits would be phased in over five years.

Prescription charges for medical card holders would be cut from 2.50 euro to 1.50 euro straight away and come down further to 50 cent after three years.

Thresholds for the drugs payment scheme would also drop.

Palliative care would be free for everyone within five years of the proposals being adopted.

The plan was drawn up by the Committee on the Future of Healthcare, set up last year in an attempt to get cross-party political agreement on desperately needed reforms of the health service.

It has heard evidence from experts, medics and patient groups over the past year.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who campaigned for the committee, said he "acknowledged the conclusion and publication" of its final report.

"I firmly believe that this is the last chance of this generation to get this right and to take the politics out of health," he said.

"I look forward to considering the report in full in the coming days and discussing it at the next Cabinet meeting in advance of a full Dail debate on the report in June."

Alan Kelly, Labour's health spokesman who sat on the committee, demanded immediate steps towards implementation.

"The publication of this report is a watershed moment for the Irish healthcare system," he said.

"This was a genuine attempt to provide a path forward and we want to ensure it is implemented."

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