Passage of GP Act for free primary care for under-sixes a historic moment
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Primary and Social Care Kathleen Lynch have described the passing of the Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014 by the Oireachtas as a historic moment which paves the way to provide GP care without fees for children under six.
Both Ministers have also accepted an amendment by Senator John Crown which prevents any ‘gagging’ clause from being included in contracts with GPs. While it always was the intention to ensure freedom of expression for GPs, this amendment copperfastens their freedom to voice their opinions or concerns about the health services.
“This Act is a significant step in the Government’s plan to provide universal health care, starting with access to General Practitioners without fees for children under six,” said Minister Varadkar. “This particular measure is the keystone of the Government’s policy in the area of primary care. We are shifting the focus of healthcare from hospitals to the community, and from treating illnesses to maintaining good health.”
Minister Lynch said: “It is the first step along the way to ensuring that all our citizens have GP cover. It will be of enormous benefit to hard-pressed families with young children, helping them to overcome the obstacle of the financial burden of GP care.”
Additional funding of €37m was provided in Budget 2014 to fund this first phase. Providing access to a GP service without fees to all children aged five and under will mean that almost half of the population will have access to GP services without fees. 240,000 children that currently must pay to see a GP will benefit. Implementation is due to take place later in the year.