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However, when asked by the media, she refused to be drawn on how many GPs had signed the contract to date.
Speaking during the College’s session on ‘Realising the Potential for General Practice Delivery of Patient Centred Care’, Minister Lynch said she understood there were “concerns” over the proposals.
Earlier at the Conference, ICGP members held a closed session to discuss the under-sixes contract, with a sense of “disquiet” and “unease” over the proposals reported by members who spoke to the Medical Independent (MI).
The College was due to issue further details on matters raised during this session, some days after the Conference.
According to Minister Lynch, many parents of under-sixes and pensioners struggled with GP fee costs. However, she said GPs wanted the “very best” for patients and that she had “never met a GP that stopped treatment because the person didn’t have enough money”.
During the session, the Minister also disclosed that the HSE will shortly be a appointing a National Clinical Lead for Primary Care. This person will be “an experienced GP” and will ensure “focused GP input into the development and reform of primary care services”.
On the issue of GP training, Minister Lynch said the HSE was carrying out substantial work on manpower planning for the health service, including future medical workforce needs.
“The demographic pressures that Ireland is already experiencing and a need to continue to refocus our health services towards primary care will require greater numbers of practitioners. It is important that in the short term, we build capacity to increase the number of GPs trained. The ICGP will need to be at the centre of the training reform. I look forward to current discussions between the College and the HSE on this important issue bearing fruit so that we can put in place arrangements that can produce the GPs that we need in the necessary numbers and in as cost-effective a manner as possible.”
Speaking later to journalists, Minister Lynch said the plan to roll-out free GP care “had to start somewhere” and she did not believe the under-sixes and the over-70s was the wrong starting point.
Asked by MI if she feared that the under-sixes contract could spark animosity between some GPs who signed — and some who didn’t — she said she could not be responsible for people’s potential behaviour.
“How they react to one another is not something I can control,” she said.