Press Release

More doctors for Medical Card holders to choose from

The Minister for Heath and Children, Mary Harney, TD, today (30th September, 2009) announced changes to the entry provisions for General Practitioners (GPs) to the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme which will allow more GP’s to apply for a GMS contract. She also announced changes in the retirement provisions for GPs who hold a GMS contract or contracts under certain other health schemes.

The Minister said “I have stated on numerous occasions previously, that it is my wish to see open access to GMS Contracts for all suitably qualified GPs and this continues to be my goal. In the meantime, I have agreed, as an interim measure, to extend the entry provisions for doctors to the GMS Scheme. For the public, this will mean more doctors for GMS patients to choose from.

“Pending the development of a new GP contract, I am confident that these changes will greatly improve access opportunities to the General Medical Services Scheme for younger GPs and will also allow a number of GPs currently in the scheme but facing retirement to remain on if they wish. The HSE has estimated that in excess of 150 GPs could benefit from these improved GMS access provisions, which will be reviewed before the end of February 2010 to ensure that the desired impact is achieved.”

Background

Under these provisions which come into effect on 1st October 2009, any fully qualified and approved vocationally trained General Practitioner (meeting the general conditions relating to eligibility for appointment to the GMS Scheme) who was in general practice on the 1st September 2009 and was in full time general practice in an area for a period of one whole year prior to that date (or having, on or before that date, entered into a partnership, or signed a legally binding contract to enter into a partnership, with a General Practitioner who holds a GMS contract) shall be entitled to apply for a GMS contract in the relevant area.

GPs who obtain contracts under these provisions will be entitled to accept:

  • Patients who, on or after the 1st October 2009, become eligible for a medical card under the provisions of the Health Act, 2008;
  • Patients who, on or after the 1st October 2009, become eligible for a GP Visit Card under the provisions of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005;
  • Any of their patients who become eligible for a Medical Card / GP Visit Card / Health (Amendment) Act card under the relevant provisions of the Health Acts on or after the 1st October 2009.

These arrangements shall apply for a transition period ending on 31st August 2013. After that date, the doctor concerned will be free to accept any Medical Card / GP Visit Card / Health (Amendment) Act patient nominating him or her as their doctor of choice, in accordance with the existing rules relating to GMS panel size, etc.

In the case of a GP who qualifies for a GMS contract under the terms of this letter relating to partnership and who continues in such partnership, the transition period will end on 31st August 2010, after which he/she will be free to accept any Medical Card / GP Visit Card / Health (Amendment) Act patient nominating him or her as their doctor of choice, in accordance with the existing rules relating to GMS panel size, etc.

GPs wishing to avail of these provisions must submit their application to the HSE not later than 31st January 2010.

In relation to existing GP retirement provisions, GPs, who hold a contract or contracts under the GMS Scheme, the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme or the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme and who are currently compulsorily required to retire at 65 years of age, may from 1st October 2009 continue to hold their contract(s) until their 70th birthday. Similar arrangements will also apply to new contract holders.