Statement by the Irish Medical Organisation - As Government uses emergency legislation to force cuts on GPs, IMO warns that patient services this winter will be significantly impacted
• Warning that move will herald waiting lists for GPs and mark the death knell for Government’s plans for “free” GP services.
Monday 01st July 2013. Patient services at GP practices across the country will be significantly impacted this coming winter as a direct result of cuts to GPs fees and allowances which have been confirmed by the Government this evening (1st July), the IMO has warned.
This will be the 4th in a series of cuts imposed on General Practice in recent years which have had the effect of reducing resources into General Practice by over €150 million.
Cuts will lead to long waiting lists to see your GP and end of any hope for universal GP care as promised by the Government…
Dr. Ray Walley, Chairman of the IMO GP Committee and a GP in Dublin’s north Inner city, warned that the cuts would directly impact on patient services; “This a massive nail in the coffin for our traditional GP services. Tragically patient services will be impacted. I believe we will see the normalisation of long waiting times to see your local GP like they have in the UK. I also believe that these cuts mark the end of any hope of universal health insurance to cover GP services.”
The IMO had argued strongly against these proposed cuts. In detailed submission to the Department of Health and Children, the IMO argued:
• General Practice is at breaking point and the imposition of further cuts threatens to destroy the fabric of the Irish General Practice system.
• Decisions taken today may well herald the introduction of waiting lists for GPs for the first time in Ireland and the unavailability of GP services in certain parts of the country. Indeed some of these effects are already being seen with increased attendance at GP out of hours services.
• Further cuts in payments to GPs will mark the end of any capacity to introduce Universal GP Care in Ireland in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Walley has called on the Minister for Health to explain his rationale for these cuts; “the Minister knows full well that GP services are at crisis point. He must explain the basis for these cuts because, for the life of me, I can’t understand his thinking. The key to more efficient health services is a more productive GP network. But rather than resourcing GP services properly to do more work, the Government is forcing through cuts which will force GPs to reduce the amount of work they can do. This will lead, in turn, to further pressure on hospitals around the country. This move is not only mean-spirited, it is stupid. Unfortunately by the time the Government sees the damage it has caused, it may be too late for many patients.”
The details of the cuts introduced under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 (FEMPI), to reduce fees payable to GPs as follows:
• Elimination of special fee payable in respect of certain Medical Cards, as provided for in Circulars dated 31st July 2001 and 8th April 2002.
• Reduction in the 3:1 panel weighting for patients over 70 years, as provided for in Circular dated 3rd August 2001, to 2.1.
• Reduction in the influenza vaccination fee payable to €15.00. (This equates to the fee payable to pharmacists for administering the same vaccine).
• Reduction of 3.1 % in other superannuable fees, such as capitation fees; fees in respect of asylum seekers I non EU nationals; and supplementary out-of-hours payments.
• A 7.5% reduction in respect of other non superannuable fees, such as fees Iallowances for Out-of-Hours work; STCs; Special Items of Service (excluding immunisations ); Rural Practice Allowance; Dispensing; Second Medical Opinion; Locum Cover; various payments under the Fee-per-Item Contract, Health Amendment Act 1996, the Maternity & Infant Care Scheme and Heartwatch.
• Reduction of 1% in the practice nurse/secretary support payment.
It is estimated that the above measures will result in an overall reduction of 7.5% in fees and allowances payable to GPs under the schemes in question.