Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (729, 730, 731)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

738 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if the cost of blood tests is covered under the medical card scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34435/12]

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Billy Kelleher

Question:

739 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the reason a 90 year old person on a pension and in receipt of a medical card is expected to pay €15 each time for regular blood tests for warfarin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34436/12]

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Sean Fleming

Question:

764 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health if general practitioners are allowed to charge medical card patients for the taking of blood tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34638/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 738, 739 and 764 together.

Section 11 of the General Medical Services (GMS) GP Capitation Contract, which was introduced in 1989, provides that the medical practitioner shall provide for eligible persons, on behalf of the Health Service Executive, all proper and necessary treatment of a kind usually undertaken by a general practitioner and not requiring special skill or experience of a degree or kind which general practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess. General Practitioners (GPs) who hold General Medical Services (GMS) contracts with the HSE must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders for services covered under the GMS contract. In circumstances where the taking of blood is necessary to either:

(a) assist in the process of diagnosing a patient; or

(b) monitor a diagnosed condition;

the GP may not charge the patient if they are eligible for free GMS services. At my request, the HSE has written to all GMS GPs reminding them of their obligations under their contract in respect of services such as phlebotomy and advised them that charges should not be applied for such services.

The HSE is encouraging eligible patients who believe they have been inappropriately charged by a GP for routine phlebotomy services to seek a refund from the GP in question. Alternatively, they may wish to follow up with the HSE and the matter will be fully investigated. Formal complaints will be dealt with through the HSE's Consumer Affairs Service. It is appreciated that because of the nature of the GP/patient relationship, it may be difficult for patients to make such complaints. Where public representatives are made aware of GPs charging GMS patients in error, they may wish to notify the HSE directly.

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a new GMS GP contract with an increased emphasis on the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. It is envisaged that the new contract, when finalised, will focus on prevention and will include a requirement for GPs to provide care as part of integrated multidisciplinary Primary Care Teams. Officials in my Department are in consultation with the HSE with a view to drawing up a new contract. The appropriate arrangements in relation to phlebotomy services and other such services will be considered as part of the new contract.