Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ceisteanna (571, 572, 580, 581, 589)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

571. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if he is concerned that general practitioners signing up to the new contract for free GP care for children under six must agree to the Health Service Executive inspecting their records; if he feels this could compromise confidentiality for patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12091/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

572. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if he envisages an increase in the rate of visits to the general practitioner per annum by children under six once free GP care for them is introduced; if so, how GPs will cope with this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12092/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

580. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if, with regard to the draft agreement for provision of services to under six year olds, he has concerns regarding the fact that the draft agreement seeks to limit the number of each doctor's patients to no more than 2,000; if such a limitation is likely to generate a need for additional general practitioners; if his Department, in its policy making role, has determined the number of doctors in general practice that will be required here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12147/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

581. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he has studied the draft agreement for the provision of services to under six year olds which the Health Service Executive has circulated to general practitioners; if there is any particular significance to the fact that the term "doctor" is not used in the draft contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12148/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

589. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health further to the publication of the draft agreement for the provision of services for under six year olds, if the suggestion of a five year contract is one which may prove disruptive to general practice; if he is satisfied that the formal performance reviews envisaged in the agreement can be carried out with sufficient certainty and regularity as to ensure medical service provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12217/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 571, 572, 580, 581 and 589 together.

The Government is committed to introducing, on a phased basis, a universal GP service without fees within its term of office, as set out in the Programme for Government and the Future Health strategy framework. As announced in the Budget, it has been decided to commence the roll-out of a universal GP service by providing all children aged 5 years and under with access to a GP service without fees. The implementation of this measure will require primary legislation, which I expect to be published shortly. A draft contract for the provision of free GP care to children aged 5 years and under, is currently the subject of a consultation process. I would wish to emphasise that the document is a draft and I have no doubt that there will be changes to the text following the consultation process.

The Deputies' questions raised a number of specific issues, which I will now address.

The obligations set out in the draft contract in respect to the inspection of records by the HSE is a standard feature of most contracts for the provision of health and social services on behalf of the HSE. Among the circumstances in which they might need to be invoked would be where patient safety concerns arise; where concerns exist about the quality of services being provided; in processing complaints from patients/relatives; and for probity assurance purposes. In exercising a provision of this nature, the HSE would be obliged to have due regard to patient confidentiality considerations, the need for patient consent and applicable legislative obligations.

In relation to the limitation on the number of patients on a GPs list, a similar provision is included in the existing General Medical Services (GMS) contract.

Regarding visitation rates, research carried out for the Department in 2013 indicates that fee-paying children under 6 years of age have an annual GP visit rate of 2.7, whereas, medical card/GP visit card holding children in the same age cohort have an annual visitation rate of 3.1.

The term "medical practitioner " rather than "doctor" is used throughout the existing GMS contract and throughout the draft contract for the provision of GP care for children under six years.

I expect that issues such as increased visitation rates, the capacity of the existing number of doctors to deliver the service and the proposed five year contract will be the subject of further discussions with the GP's.