I propose to take Questions Nos. 749 and 801 together.
The Government is committed to introducing a universal GP service without fees, on a phased basis, within its term of office. As announced in the Budget, the Government has decided to commence the roll-out of universal GP services by providing all children under six years with access to a GP service without fees.
In addition to a requirement for primary legislation, the introduction of this service will require a new contractual framework to be put in place between the HSE and individual general practitioners. In this regard, a draft contract is currently the subject of a consultation process. While there has been some negative reaction to the draft contract, I am pleased that the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the primary representative body for general practitioners, has confirmed that it is supportive of Government policy to introduce GP care free at the point of access, albeit conditional on the provision of adequate resources and full and meaningful negotiations with the IMO.
I have recently met with the IMO on a number of occasions on a without prejudice basis, with a view to exploring potential frameworks which could lead to a meaningful and comprehensive process of engagement in relation to the under 6 contract. These talks have been useful and if agreement can be reached, the Department/HSE and the IMO would then be in a position to commence a process of engagement on the proposed contract.
The feasibility of issues such as contracted doctors liaising with the HSE’s centralised medical card section in relation to the medical needs of GMS patients can be explored in that context.