“There was an understanding that there would be no further granting of cards to large blocks of people without some prior consultation with the GPs first,” Dr Egan said.
The announcement this week from the Minister for Health that all carers in receipt of the carers allowance will be given GP visit cards has been criticised by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), while a local doctor has warned it will impact on people's ability to see their GP.
Minister Simon Harris was criticised by the NAGP for making promises to 40,000 patients of GP care that it says he “cannot deliver.”
The NAGP said it welcomed supports for carers, who it says provide a vital function in our society.
“However, in this case, the Minister is making a promise that he knows he cannot deliver. In recent weeks, the Minister has recognised that there is no additional capacity in the GP sector, yet makes this promise despite assurances that there would not be any extensions to the existing 40 year old GMS contract.
“Further, this decision was made by Minister Harris without consultation or agreement with the medical representative bodies. This flies in the face of a “collaborative” process and makes a mockery of the negotiations in relation to a new GMS contract.
“With an election expected in Spring 2018 this can only be seen as a populist move to win votes,” the representative body suggested.
The Minister indicated on RTE that there will be an additional 40,000 qualifying patients under the scheme.
However, the NAGP stated, “The scheme is disingenuous in that it is offering a doctor visit card that does not carry with it the benefits such as medications, counselling, physiotherapy and occupational therapy that this particular group need.”
Dr. Jonathan Egan, Carrick-on-Shannon Medical Centre, speaking to the Leitrim Observer, said it is good to see the Minister acknowledge the contribution of carers to the greater good but he expressed the opinion that there are problems with the issuing of 'doctor visit' cards to the group, especially so when it was done without consultation with the GPs.
“We are still dealing with the consequences of every child under 6 having been granted a 'doctor visit' card a few years ago,” he said.
“That move negatively impacted on people's ability to see their GP as we now see markedly increased numbers from this age cohort. Many elderly patients have commented on the longer waits to see a doctor in the intervening few years.
“The doctors had thought there was an understanding with the Minister that there would be no further granting of cards to large blocks of people without some prior consultation with the GPs first,” Dr. Egan said.
He said the 'doctor visit' card is very useful but, as the NAGP point out, it does not grant access to the wider range of services of a full medical card.
“I feel personally that the Government should have negotiated with the GPs about the possibility of some or all of this group being granted full medical cards rather than a blanket granting of the lesser 'doctor visit' type cards to the wider group,” Dr. Egan said.