Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (861)

Catherine Connolly


861. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health the engagement he has had with the Minister for Finance with regard to plans to allow applications for primary medical certificates to be processed and approved by general practitioners given the ongoing backlog in applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6999/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme comes under the remit of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners. The extent of the involvement of Health Service Executive (HSE) personnel in the Scheme relates to making a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant meets the specified medical criteria for a Primary Medical Certificate, which is a requirement for the Scheme. This determination is undertaken by Senior Medical Officers for the relevant HSE Community Health Organisation on behalf of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

The Deputy may be aware that following a Supreme Court decision of June 2020, the assessment process for Primary Medical Certificates was suspended at the request of the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe T.D. Following the approval of the Finance Act 2020 which provides for the medical criteria in primary legislation, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, T.D., issued an instruction to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE to the effect that Primary Medical Certificate assessments can recommence with effect from 1st January, 2021.

Separately, the ability to hold assessments may be impacted by, among other things, the public health restrictions in place and the role of the HSE Medical Officers in the roll out of the COVID vaccination programme. I have been informed that the HSE is considering the matter of Primary Medical Certificate assessments in the context of their revision of the HSE recovery and restoration plans, taking into account the pressures and challenges to the health services presented by COVID.

I understand that there is no legal basis within the Department of Finance regulations governing the Scheme, to have Primary Medical Certificate assessments undertaken by General Practitioners.

As the issue raised by the Deputy relating to Primary Medical Certificate assessments undertaken since January 2021 is a service matter, I have arranged to have the question referred to the HSE for consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.