Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has said the lack of GPs signing up to deliver the Under 6 Free GP care shows the Government’s implementation of the policy has failed.

Deputy Kelleher commented: “The fact that less than 40% of GPs have signed up to deliver this scheme only a matter of weeks before parents are supposed to be availing of the service shows how flawed the Government’s approach has been.  The Government has botched the roll out of this policy from the outset.

“Fianna Fáil believes that if we are to make primary care the bedrock of our healthcare system we must gradually rebalance the proportion of the health budget going to primary care.  This would see an annual average increase in the primary care budget of €120 million over a five year term.  Fianna Fáil believes GPs and their colleagues in the community-based health professions, such as public health nurses, therapists, social workers, care assistants, have been neglected by this Government.

“The Government has simply failed to convince GPs of the merits of pursuing this policy of free GP care for the Under 6s and its implementation certainly leaves a lot to be desired.  Fianna Fáil values our family doctors but there is a lot of justifiable anger among GPs about how the Government has dealt with the sector.  Fianna Fáil is committing to delivering properly resourced general practice and that would involve negotiating a new contract with GPs that rebalances in favour of primary care.

“Spending on primary care in Ireland is low by international standards where there is an accepted benchmark of around 10% of overall health spending.  We accept that many GP practices are now running at unsustainable levels of net income after meeting unavoidable costs.  It’s estimated that around 1 in 12 practices are in danger of going under financially.

“I am extremely concerned about how the Under 6s GP care is being rolled out, with the Government effectively trying to strong-arm doctors in delivering the care.  This approach could actually leave large communities across the country without the service at all.  Minister Varadkar needs to look again at how the Government is rolling this out.  With less than 40% of GPs on board right now and parents due to avail of free GP care for their children from the end of next month this is fast becoming a major crisis in our communities.”