Press Release

Minister announces establishment of Primary Care Task Force

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin TD, today (1 April 2002) announced the establishment of the Primary Care Task Force. This body will drive the implementation of Primary Care: A New Direction, the primary care strategy, which the Minister launched as part of the health strategy. It will be a partnership between the health boards and the Department of Health and Children and will be the group of people whose “day job” will be delivering the reforms of primary care which are contained in the strategy.

“As I said at the launch of the Strategy, the time is now right for a major refocus of primary care services and the introduction of a team approach to primary care. This Government is delivering on its commitment and responsibility to respond to the public´s analysis of what a modern health service should provide: a first class continuum of care, close to home and available around the clock. Today represents the beginning of this process,” said the Minister.

Primary Care: A New Direction acknowledges the central role of primary care in the future development of our health services and proposes the introduction of a inter-disciplinary team based approach. These changes will improve access for all to primary care services, especially out of hours, will improve the links between primary and secondary care and will emphasise the importance of prevention of disease and health promotion. It will also help to make primary care a more satisfying and rewarding career by providing an environment in which each person and profession can maximise his/her contribution.

It will also enable care to develop the capacity to meet the future challenges with which it is faced such as ageing of the population capacity and retention of human resources, earlier hospital discharge, care in appropriate settings as well as the opportunities afforded through modern information and communications technology.

The Task Force is being established to take leadership and responsibility for implementation of the changes and developments set out in Primary Care: A New Direction. The work of the Task Force will have to involve a detailed process of communication with stakeholders to ensure that people are informed of and involved in the developments which will take place in the coming years.

The Task Force is inter-disciplinary and will report to a wider steering group which will include representatives from primary care professional groups, unions, the community and voluntary sector and other relevant stakeholders. The steering group will be chaired by Professor Ivan Perry, University College Cork.

The roles of the Task Force will include

Driving the implementation of the primary care model as outlined in Primary Care: A New Direction

Identifying representative locations on a national basis for implementation projects which will be the initial sites where the new model will be implemented and tested.

Planning human resources, information and communications technology and capital requirements for primary care on a national basis

Putting in place a framework for the extension of GP co-operatives on a national basis with specific reference to payment methods and operational processes

The role of the Steering Group will be to provide overall guidance to the Task Force in its work and will specifically include

  • Defining a broad set of primary care services which should be provided by primary care teams
  • Overseeing the development of quality initiatives in primary care
  • Identifying locations for the establishment of academic centres of primary care as a source of policy and practice advice
  • Achieving closer integration between primary and secondary care
  • Providing policy advice to the Department of Health and Children, health boards and other bodies as appropriate
  • Evaluating progress, including an annual report on implementation

€5 million has been allocated for the primary care strategy in 2002.

The Minister expressed his confidence that with the establishment of the Primary Care Task Force, the important work of developing the new primary care model would get underway immediately and will include the putting in place of a number of pilot projects in the current year.