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No agreement has yet been reached, as GPs have not agreed to sign any contract.
Many of us, in fact most of us, are struggling to keep our practices afloat and the under-sixes contract may appear to be a solution to financial woes. But this is not the financial lifeline it is being portrayed as. Any potential financial benefits will be short-lived as our practices are flooded with the ‘walking well’.
The Government requires at least 40 per cent of GPs to sign the contract. It is our sincere hope that general practitioners will stand firm and reject the contract en masse.
The NAGP remains convinced that critical issues such as the FEMPI cuts, the removal of rural practice allowances, the removal of distance allowances and additional investment in general practice in deprived urban areas must be given priority. The €67 million which has been allocated to the under-sixes scheme should be allocated to support existing general practice services rather than augmenting the pressures placed on a sector which is already crumbling under the current workload.
It is our firm belief that any proposal on free GP care for under-sixes should be postponed until comprehensive negotiations on a new GMS contract have concluded. This new contract should include realistic capitation rates, proper pension and sick-leave provisions, and appropriate remuneration for chronic disease management, at the very least.
For the last five years, GPs have had to sit back and accept more and more demand for less and less funding. That stops now. If we do not, as a group, stand together and oppose this scheme, we will be letting ourselves down and letting our patients down. It will allow the irresponsible erosion of general practice to continue.
Signing-up to this agreement will irreparably damage the collective strength of GPs in future negotiations and representation.
In our recent survey, 92 per cent of GPs supported collective rejection of the under-sixes contract, regardless of remuneration. The time has come to show the Department of Health, the HSE and the public that our word is our bond. Through the IMO, the ICGP and the NAGP, GPs have repeatedly stated that the introduction of universal free GP care must begin by raising the medical card income thresholds. We must now have the courage to match our convictions. It is essential that we band together on this issue and clearly demonstrate that we will not be bought or bullied.
I ask you to join with us in rejecting the under-sixes contract, in the best interest of patients and general practice.
United we stand, divided we fall.
NAGP National Council:
Dr Andrew Jordan
Dr Conor McGee
Dr Keith Swanick
Dr Emmet Kerin
Dr Jim Stacey
Dr Bill Moore
Dr Stephen Murphy
Dr Tadhg O’Carroll
Dr Claire O’Driscoll
Dr Adrian O’Donovan
Dr Mary O’Donovan
Dr Daniel Crowley
Dr Yvonne Williams
Dr Anne Marie Vaughan-Carr
Dr John Garvey
Dr Michelle O’Connor
Dr Chris O’Rourke
Dr Oliver Lynn
Dr Mary Flynn
Dr Michael Fay
Dr Diarmuid O’Connell