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Taoiseach and Minister for Health welcome agreement on GP contractual reform

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and Minister for Health Simon Harris TD today welcomed the agreement with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) on a major package of GP contractual reforms which will benefit patients and make general practice a more attractive career option for doctors.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:

I am very happy that we have been able to conclude an agreement with the IMO on a revised GP contract.

The agreement provides for 40% increase in funding for General Practice over the next four years and it's frontloaded.

I believe this will encourage more doctors to go into General Practice and will provide new funding to develop practices and the services they provide. In return, GPs will agree to work with us on much-needed reforms including more cost-effective prescribing of medicines, waiting list validation and use of new ICT systems.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said:

This agreement is a landmark for the health service. For the first time we will see the structured care on a large scale of patients with chronic conditions in a primary care setting.

I am delighted also that GPs will engage strongly with the exciting eHealth agenda which will enable safer, joined-up patient care and will also help the health service to greatly reduce the use of outmoded paper-based communications and record-keeping.

The Department of Health, the HSE and the IMO have agreed a set of measures on the provision of new services, including a structured chronic disease management programme, commencing in 2020, which will benefit over 430,000 Medical Card and GP Visit Card patients over the next four years.

GPs will also be paid to provide venesection for patients with haemochromatosis, which will mean that 8,000 GMS patients with this condition will no longer have to attend hospitals for therapeutic phlebotomy.

A wide-ranging set of modernisation measures has also been agreed in the areas of eHealth, medicines management and multidisciplinary working. Key initiatives include the rollout of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) and the development of summary and shared care electronic patient records which will make healthcare safer and more efficient.

The introduction in 2019 of a system of pharmacist-led medication reviews will facilitate safer, more appropriate and more cost-effective prescribing. GPs will also for the first time formally cooperate with HSE multidisciplinary networks of health professionals in the community in the delivery of care, with a particular focus on those with complex needs.

In return for GPs’ cooperation with these service developments and reforms, the Government will increase investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210m) over the next four years.

This will see significant increases in capitation fees for GPs who participate in the reform programme and the introduction of new fees and subsidies for additional services such as the chronic disease management programme.

There will also be increased support for rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas. The rural practice allowance will be increased by 10% in 2020 and targeted funding of €2m annually will be set aside to provide additional support to practices in deprived urban areas.

These measures will contribute to making general practice more sustainable in rural areas and in areas with particular socio-economic challenges.

Improvements to maternity and paternity leave arrangements for GPs have also been agreed, in recognition of the need to ensure that general practice is compatible with doctors’ family commitments.

The agreement includes proposals to Government to extend GP care without fees to children aged 6-12 on a phased basis, starting in 2020.

Speaking today, the Taoiseach said:

The Minister for Health and I are also signalling our intention to extend the free GP care scheme for children which currently applies to children aged five and under, to all children aged 6-12.

Alongside the new staff nurses contract agreed with unions earlier this week and the reduction in prescription charges and the widening of income limits for the GP Visit Card, I believe this represents a major step forward in the implementation of Slaintecare, increased resourcing of primary care, transferring chronic disease management from hospitals to the community, and widening the provision of free and subsidised healthcare.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said:

This agreement shows that Government is delivering on the Sláintecare programme – the agreement of a revised GP contract will enable the delivery of integrated, community-based care that is provided at the right time, in the right place. I appreciate that GPs have been under pressure in recent years to maintain services in the face of increasing demand and stretched resources. The funding stream that will flow in return for the changes we are announcing today will put general practice on a much more sustainable footing and help to make it an attractive and exciting career choice for doctors.