Killarney GP Gary Stack has warned that plans to give a GP visit card to 430,000 in the budget will lead to waiting lists for GP appointments and put pressure on primary care.
Dr Stack told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the proposal will affect patients who need care. “It's going to result in delays in care, it's going to result in delayed investigation and treatment in hospital. I think the legacy of this Minister will be a legacy of GP waiting lists which didn't exist prior to his entry here.
“There just is not the population of GPs to service the level of care that the Government wish to provide.
“This to me is a political sop, there's no medical benefit in doing this, we already have huge waiting lists in secondary care, we don't want to bring those waiting lists into primary care, we want to provide the best care we can, but if they are doubling the visiting rate - that cannot be coped with in general practice in-hours or out-of-hours.”
In the UK efforts were being made to reduce GP waiting lists while the situation appeared to be going in the opposite direction in Ireland, he added. “There will be no extra access to primary care services, just a free visit to a GP, a saving of around €50 on average.”
The free visit card would put “huge pressure” on the primary care system, particularly the out-of-hours service as many patients do not have a GP.
“We see lots of patients who don't have a GP and that falls into out-of-hours putting huge pressure on out-of-hours and the service we're trying to provide when really they need a GP for continuing care and follow up.
“I don't think any GPs were expecting 430,000 divided between 3,000 GPs... that is almost 150 extra GP visit cards per patient.
“We were told during Covid to follow the science, the science of this basically is anybody with free access there will be a doubling of visits to GPs per year, so it will go from three to six, that's an extra three visits per GP, that's 450 visits in the year, or nine each week, an extra two and a quarter hours plus 50 per cent on top of that for paperwork, so that's an extra three to three and a half hours work per week. But there aren't GPs there to fulfill that.”
The concerns of GPs were not in relation to the contract for medical cards, it was a manpower issue, explained Dr Stack.