General Practitioner Services

Questions (236)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

236. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify whether general practitioners are permitted to charge an administrative fee for blood tests on each occasion a medical card patient attends for same or whether this charge is in breach of the guidelines issued by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21810/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, a general practitioner (GP) is expected to provide his/her patients who hold a medical card or GP visit card with all proper and necessary treatment of a kind generally undertaken by a GP. Where blood tests form part of the investigation and necessary treatment of patients' symptoms or conditions, these should be provided free of charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. The HSE also points out that, in many GP surgeries, it is the practice nurse who takes blood samples. The HSE significantly subsidises the cost of employing practice nurses. The GMS contract does not make provision for charging medical card or GP visit card patients an administrative fee for phlebotomy services. The HSE is continuing to advise 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. 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.

Care Services

Questions (237)

Finian McGrath

Question:

237. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a long-term care plan in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [21867/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, this question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Smaller Hospitals Framework

Questions (238, 239)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

238. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when the small hospitals framework report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21872/13]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

239. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when the Higgins report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21873/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 239 together.

Clear information about the role of our smaller hospitals and what they will do in the future is offered in Securing the Future of Smaller Hospitals: A Framework for Development, which focuses in particular on the role of nine smaller hospitals that have been the subject of particular attention from the Health Information and Quality Authority. The principles behind it will apply to all smaller hospitals, regardless of whether they are specifically referenced. In developing the framework, the Government is clear that there is an important future role for smaller hospitals, in which they will provide services for more patients, not fewer; that no acute hospital will close; and that safety issues in all acute hospitals, large or small, must be fully addressed by providing the right type of service for the right patient in the right setting. This framework demonstrates clearly that the future of smaller hospitals is secure. It outlines the need for smaller hospitals and larger hospitals to operate together. Therefore, it is intrinsically linked to the ongoing work regarding the development of hospital groups.

We know that the traditional practice of providing as many services as possible in every hospital is neither sustainable nor safe. The formation of Irish acute hospitals into a small number of groups, each with its own governance and management, will provide an optimum opportunity for hospital services to be configured to deliver high-quality, safe patient care in a cost-effective manner. It was with this in mind that I appointed Professor John Higgins in June of last year to chair a strategic board on the establishment of hospital groups. I have received Professor Higgins's report, which is based on a comprehensive consultation process and contains almost 60 recommendations on the formation, management and governance of hospital groups, all of which are strongly endorsed by the strategic board.

I will shortly submit this report to the Government to consider and decide on the final formation of each hospital group. I appreciate that this report and the related Government decision are anxiously awaited. As this is the most radical and most fundamental modernisation of our health system infrastructure since the State's foundation, I take very seriously my obligation to consider the report closely and to assure myself and my Cabinet colleagues that it provides a robust basis to enable timely access to a high-quality and sustainable hospital service for those who need it. The Government will decide on the initial make-up of hospital groups which will be established on an administrative basis, pending the legislation required to set up hospital trusts by 2015. Before those trusts are established, the composition and functioning of the groups will be reviewed. If changes prove necessary, they will be made with Government approval when the hospital trusts are being formed. It is my intention to bring both of these reports to the Government in the near future for approval and to publish them shortly thereafter.