I have very much supported the concept of out-of-hours general practitioner co-operatives and am very pleased that they are now operating in all health board areas, for all, or limited hours, on weekdays, at weekends and on public and bank holidays. At present, only the North-Eastern Health board has a regional project. All of the other boards have started on a cell basis and have built or intend to build to cover the board's area on an incremental basis as interest and resources permit. The specific area to be designated as suitable for a co-operative is a matter for the relevant health board to decide and involves lengthy discussion and preparatory work with the stakeholders involved.
As I explained on 8 April to the Deputy, funding is provided for co-operatives in their base line budgets and where additional funds for expansion are being sought by health boards, these must be sought at the time of the submission of their service plans to the Department. These allocations are normally made at the time of the Estimates and the letters of determination to boards specify the amount of money under the particular heading of co-operatives.