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Strong concerns are expressed over the under-sixes contract

A motion, which was slightly amended to reflect that the recently-proposed contract was under discussion, was passed at the recent ICGP AGM. It called on the College to urgently produce a report on the contract and its implications for standards and workload in general practice.

The proposer of the motion on behalf of the Westmidlands Faculty, Dr Henry Finnegan, said that, in particular, the faculty was extremely concerned that the terms of the contract allowed for the State to assign patients of a GP who doesn’t sign the contract to another practice.

Dr Finnegan called this facet of the contract “coercive” and said that it could result in many GPs going out of business.

“It is the first time in our memory that the State would act in this coercive-type way,” Dr Finnegan said.

“If you have a substantial number of under-six patients and the State removes those patients, obviously the mother and father are likely to go as well, and in effect, the State could put a general practitioner out of business. We felt this was disgraceful.”

Chair of the College Dr Mary Sheehan confirmed that the College would produce a document on the issue based on concerns raised by members over the weekend, but that it would be left up to individual GPs whether or not they wanted to sign up to the contract.

However, speaking from the floor, Achill GP Dr Noreen Lineen-Curtis said that many GPs needed more help and guidance from the College.

“I don’t know if it is enough to say it is an individual decision when it is a decision that is going to affect every single GP in the country, whichever way it goes,” Dr Lineen-Curtis said.

“I think when there is this much dissent and this much division and opinion, a red flag must be raised and I think we need to put on the brakes and ask for more time.”

Dr Mary Glancy, who is outgoing Honorary Secretary but was speaking in a personal capacity, suggested that while the ICGP could not call for any collective action, the College could ask the HSE to withdraw the contract if it decided that implementation of the document would lead to quality and safety issues.

“If it was felt it was an appropriate contract from a quality standards point of view, then we would be able to say to the HSE that we feel that they should withdraw this contract from us, rather than we should withdraw from the contract as GPs,” she said, receiving applause from delegates.

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