A forthcoming strategic review of general practice should take place before the extension of eligibility for GP care without charges, the Chairperson of the IMO GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, has told the Medical Independent.
From 1 April 2023, eligibility for free GP care will be extended to people who earn the median household income of €46,000 or less. The most recent deadline to introduce free GP care for all children aged six and seven by the end of last year was missed. The Department of Health and the HSE “are continuing preparations for the strategic review of general practice… which is to commence shortly”, stated a Department spokesperson.
However, Dr McCauley warned the system is currently under significant stress and will not be able to cope with the extra patient visits that will follow the extension of eligibility next month.
“Right now, the demand is probably greater than the capacity of general practice,” Dr McCauley told this newspaper. “Coming out of the Covid era we’re actually busier than I think we were before [the pandemic].”
He warned that the extension of free care would lead to waiting lists for patients. Dr McCauley envisioned that private GP practices would be established for some patients wishing to avoid the waiting lists. “This is going to cause a two-tier GP system,” he said.
On the planned review, the Donegal GP said “there is no good doing a review if the system has been wrecked by your previous political decision. It is absolutely nonsense. They [the Government] don’t know how many people [will become eligible for free GP care]; they haven’t got a clue.” See news feature