GP’s ability to refer patients, particularly GMS patients, for diagnostic testing plays a key role in delivering health care in the community. The COVID pandemic has impacted the level of GP access to certain diagnostic services, including MRIs, which may result in patients being referred into hospital emergency departments (EDs) and outpatient services to access these services. Delays in accessing diagnostic testing imposes an increased burden on GPs who must continue to care for patients awaiting diagnosis rather than treating confirmed health issues.
Recognising these issues, additional access to diagnostics for GPs will be provided as part of the €600 million in funding for the recently published HSE Winter Plan for 2020/2021. This measure will improve timely direct access as a priority to MRI scans and other diagnostic tests for GP’s and Community Specialist Teams for the upcoming winter period and beyond, enabling integrated care delivery in the community and decreasing the numbers attending EDs. Under the Winter Plan, an additional 33,950 diagnostics are proposed in Q4 2020 and an additional 45,267 diagnostics up to April 2021.