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Payments made by the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in 2020 rose by more than €300 million due to costs related to the pandemic.
The PCRS issued €3.3 billion in payments and reimbursements last year compared to just over €3 billion in 2019.
More than €168 million in Covid-19 emergency costs were issued in 2020, while more people became eligible for medical and GP visit cards, among other schemes, as the pandemic led to widespread job losses.
The payment data was revealed in the PCRS Statistical Analysis of Claims and Payments 2020 report, recently published on the HSE website.
The report revealed a rise in the number of individuals eligible for the general medical services (GMS) scheme following a decline over several years.
Around €788 million was paid in GP fees and allowances last year, representing an increase of almost €200 million in payments compared to 2019, when €589 million was expended.
The 2020 GP payment figures included €120,000 towards a GP investment development fund. However, a breakdown of payments to GPs showed that general practice received almost twice that amount in development funding in 2019, when €310,000 was issued.
Payments to pharmacists also increased last year, totalling €1.395 billion compared to approximately €1.326 billion in 2019.
Expenditure on drugs and medicines came to €985 million last year, while pharmacists were paid €382 million in fees and stock order mark-ups.
Pharmacist patient care fees amounted to €28 million, a rise of €3 million. Spending on high tech drugs and medicines also increased from €849 million in 2019 to €916 million last year.
Meanwhile, fees paid to dentists, optometrists and ophthalmologists fell as administration costs increased.
Spending on hospital oncology drugs and medicines increased by €14 million to €82 million, but hepatitis C drugs and medicines expenditure more than halved, with €22 million spent in 2020.
Due to new reimbursement rules, around €12 million was spent on multiple sclerosis medicines last year.