Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (728)

Mark Ward


728. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health when free general practitioner care will be extended to all children under 12 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8181/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to increasing access to GP care without charges for children, an important healthcare measure that will remove a potentially prohibitive cost barrier to accessing GP care and will help to improve children’s health as they develop. At present all children under six years of age are eligible for a GP visit card and therefore GP care without charges.

The Health (General Practitioner Service and Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Act 2020 provides, amongst other things, for the phased expansion of GP care without fees to all children aged 12 years and under. The initial stage of this phased expansion will be the provision of GP care without fees to all children aged between 6 and 8.

The appropriate date for commencing the expansion remains under consideration in light of COVID-19 and the additional pressures the expansion might place on general practice in that context and in anticipation of the usual increase in demand for healthcare services over the winter period. This date will be determined following consultation with the IMO. It is important to ensure that any additional pressures placed on general practice will not limit its capacity to meet the needs of all patients in the community.