Irish Medical Organisation

Government should focus on improving resources for patients by engaging with GPs now.

Government to drop GP card plan for long-term illness

Statement by Irish Medical Organisation

“Government should focus on improving resources for patients by engaging with GPs now.”

Wednesday 08th May 2013. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has strongly criticised the Government for the mishandling of its efforts to extend GP cards to patients with long-term illnesses. Dr. Ray Walley, Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, said that the Government had wasted two years trying to achieve an impossible objective while ignoring a growing crisis in Chronic Patient Care and GP services. The Irish Times today reports that the Government is preparing to abandon its pledge in the Programme for Government to introduce free GP cards for patients with long-term illnesses.

Speaking today, Dr. Walley said that the IMO had warned the Government that there would be huge problems trying to extend free GP card coverage on the basis of health rather than income; “What patients with long-term illnesses, such as Diabetes, actually want and need is greater, structured resources at GP level to help them in the management of their chronic illnesses. GPs did not stop this project; rather, the Government made the mistake of trying to implement a solution that would look good rather than one that would make a meaningful difference to patients with long-term illnesses. This is all in the context that we have a raging epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes and the consequent increased morbidity and mortality from these problems. We now have decades of international and Irish data indicating that General Practice is the cheapest, most effective place to manage chronic care issues, if appropriately resourced. Treating long-term illnesses at GP level rather than in hospitals has been proven to be beneficial for patients and more cost effective.”

Dr. Walley said that the failure would inevitably raise serious questions about the Government’s strategy for free GP care for all during the lifetime of this Government; “Given the Government’s failure to engage with GPs about the introduction of such a fundamental change to their contracts, I think the chances of seeing this change introduced in the term of this Government are remote, unless the Government talks to GPs, who need to be properly resourced so they can deliver the optimum service for patients. The Minister should refocus his efforts on tackling the resource crisis in GP surgeries now so that patients could start seeing a meaningful improvement in their treatments.”

- Ends

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