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General Practitioner Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 21 November 2017

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Questions (322)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

322. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if it is permissible for general practitioners to charge small fees to persons with medical cards for certain services or weekend visits; if not, the way in which this practice is being monitored to ensure that it is not commonplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48740/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the terms of the current GMS contract, GPs are required to provide eligible patients with ''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." There is no provision under the GMS contract for persons who hold a medical card or GP visit card to be charged for such services provided by their GP, or the practice nurse on behalf of the GP.

The contract also stipulates that GPs must make suitable arrangements to enable contact to be made with them, or a locum/deputy, for urgent cases outside normal practice hours. This includes weekends. GPs are reimbursed by the HSE for any services they provide to GMS patients outside of normal surgery hours. While there is no obligation on GPs to participate in GP out of hours cooperatives as a means of meeting their contractual out of hours requirements, such services have been developed and expanded over time and are now an essential part of our primary care services helping to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, urgent care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Furthermore, the GMS contract explicitly states that GPs must not seek or accept money from eligible patients in reward for services provided under that contract. Consultation fees charged by GPs outside the terms of the GMS contract are a matter of private contract between the clinicians and their patients. If a patient who holds a medical card or GP visit card believes he or she has been incorrectly charged for services by his or her GP, then that patient may make a complaint to the HSE Local Health Office, who will deal with the matter in accordance with the HSE's Complaints Policy.

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