Belfast Telegraph

Free GP care to be extended to more children under agreed reforms

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is hopeful the contractual changes will encourage more medics to enter general practice.

Leo Varadkar said the new deal should attract more medics into general practice (PA)
Leo Varadkar said the new deal should attract more medics into general practice (PA)

Major reforms to GP contracts in Ireland will encourage more doctors to enter general practice, the Taoiseach has predicted.

Leo Varadkar said the package agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), including a 40% funding boost of 210 million euro over the next four years, would make being a GP a more attractive career option.

Mr Varadkar joined health minister Simon Harris at a healthcare centre in Dublin on Saturday as they announced details of the contractual reforms.

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Mr Varadkar, left, and Mr Harris announced the new reforms at the Centric Health Primary Care Centre in Dublin (@LeoVaradkar/Twitter/PA)

The agreement includes proposals to extend free GP care to children aged six to 12 on a phased basis, starting in 2020.

Currently free GP care only extends to children aged five or under.

The package outlined on Saturday includes a new structured chronic disease management programme, which is predicted to benefit more than 430,000 Medical Card and GP Visit Card patients over the next four years.

There are also several modernisation measures in the areas of eHealth, medicines management and multidisciplinary working.

Initiatives include the roll-out of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) and the development of shared electronic patient records.

This year will also see the introduction of a pharmacist-led medication reviews system.

The contract includes increased funding support for rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas.

Improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements for GPs have also been agreed.

Mr Varadkar said: “I am very happy that we have been able to conclude an agreement with the IMO on a revised GP contract.

“The agreement provides for a 40% increase in funding for general practice over the next four years and it’s front-loaded.

“I believe this will encourage more doctors to go into general practice and will provide new funding to develop practices and the services they provide.

“In return, GPs will agree to work with us on much-needed reforms including more cost-effective prescribing of medicines, waiting list validation and use of new ICT systems.”

The Taoiseach added: “The minister for health and I are also signalling our intention to extend the free GP care scheme for children which currently applies to children aged five and under, to all children aged 6-12.

“Alongside the new staff nurses contract agreed with unions earlier this week and the reduction in prescription charges and the widening of income limits for the GP Visit Card, I believe this represents a major step forward in the implementation of Slaintecare, increased resourcing of primary care, transferring chronic disease management from hospitals to the community, and widening the provision of free and subsidised healthcare.”

Mr Harris said: “This agreement is a landmark for the health service.

“For the first time we will see the structured care on a large scale of patients with chronic conditions in a primary care setting.

“I am delighted also that GPs will engage strongly with the exciting eHealth agenda which will enable safer, joined-up patient care and will also help the health service to greatly reduce the use of outmoded paper-based communications and record-keeping.”

PA

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