Some very clear promises and commitments were given in the programme for Government. They followed the promises that were made during the general election campaign. The programme for Government states:
Universal Primary Care will be introduced in phases so that additional doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals can be recruited .... Access to primary care without fees will be extended in the first year to claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness scheme at a cost of €17 million. Access to primary care without fees will be extended in the second year to claimants of free drugs under the High-Tech Drugs scheme at a cost of €15 million. Access to subsidised care will be extended to all in the next phase. Access to care without fees will be extended to all in the final phase.
These promises and commitments were clearly given. Phase 1, which was to cover people on the long-term illness scheme, has not been delivered. Two deadlines were missed before it was abandoned altogether.
I am reminded of last year's debacle regarding the primary care centres. The then Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, said some fairly hard things about the commitment of the Minister, Deputy Reilly, to primary care. She has been proven correct. Even though she was forced out of office, she knew what she was doing in terms of delivering primary care. She did not get any support from the Minister, the Taoiseach or her colleagues at the Cabinet table at the time. She was forced out of office for calling it right on that occasion. Her suggestion that the senior Minister had taken the money and used it for other purposes across the health services was quickly rejected by the Minister, Deputy Reilly. His response on 8 October 2012 was to say "No, the money is there and it [the scheme] will be brought in before the end of this year, absolutely".