Asylum seekers are generally eligible for medical cards under the GMS scheme on the same basis as other persons and throughout the country the individual health boards have assisted them in different ways to avail of the scheme. In doing so, the boards have had regard to all factors relevant to ensuring a proper service, including numbers of asylum seekers in any particular location and the situation in relation to local general practitioners.
In some boards, particularly where the number of asylum seekers may be small, such persons when issued with medical cards make their own arrangements with a contracted GMS scheme doctor. However, the general approach is that boards contact local contracted doctors to establish whether they are interested in accepting asylum seekers unto their panel. This has proved a successful method of ensuring general acceptance of asylum seekers onto GMS scheme panels although we are aware of a difficulty in part of the Southern Health Board area which is currently receiving active attention both in the board and the Department. Further, there are provisions for interpretative and translation services, where necessary.
Accordingly, the matter of asylum seekers has not given rise to any serious issue in terms of them availing of general practitioner services under the GMS scheme nor is there any reason to believe that there are specific medico-legal issues involved but the entire situation is kept under ongoing review both in the boards and the Department.
Questions Nos. 561 and 562 taken with Question No. 538.