Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
232. To ask the Minister for Health if he will immediately engage with general practitioner representatives to agree a suitable contract for the under six medical card scheme in view of the serious problems identified by these representatives with the contract which has been drafted. [8556/14]
233. To ask the Minister for Health his views on assertions the draft contract for the provision of GP care to children aged under six is a completely one-sided document which places enormous responsibilities on the general practitioner with no balanced responsibilities included for the Health Service Executive or the Department, that it is not patient centred and is heavily focussed on the bureaucracy and administrative requirements of the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8568/14]
234. To ask the Minister for Health the reason the draft contract for the provision of general practitioner care to children aged under six makes no reference to the Medical Practitioners Act 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8569/14]
235. To ask the Minister for Health the reason the draft contract for the provision of general practitioner care to children aged under six contains a stipulation the service provider shall not do anything to prejudice the name or reputation of the Health Service Executive; the other contracts in the health service that contain such a clause; if the contract with hospital consultants contains such a clause; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8570/14]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 to 235, inclusive, together.
A public consultation process started on 31st January 2014 relating to the content and scope of a new GP contract to underpin the provision of GP care, free at the point of use, for all children aged under six years of age.
I met with key stakeholders on 31st January - the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Irish Medical Organisation and the National Association of General Practitioners – to brief them on Government policy concerning the introduction of a universal GP service without fees and in particular, on the first phase concerning children under 6 years.
Advertisements were published in the national newspapers on 1st February 2014, inviting the general public and other interested parties to submit their views on the contract to the HSE. The draft contract is available for review on the HSE website and the closing date for receipt by the HSE of written submissions is 21st February 2014.
This is the first public consultation of its kind. I welcome all views on the type of service to be delivered to children under this new arrangement and look forward to the results of the consultation process.
With reference to the specific clause in the draft contract to which Deputy Kelleher refers (Clause 28.4.4), it is intended to reflect and be protective of the HSE's interests given that the primary statutory obligations to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services will rest with the HSE. It is not in any sense intended to impose unwarranted or inappropriate restrictions on individual GP contractors in advocating on behalf of their patients.
A similar clause can be found in the form of agreement with Clinical Dental Technicians, which was introduced in 2011. The clause in question should be viewed in the context of the entire draft document, where the intent is to balance the duties, obligations and rights of both parties, while at the same time, having due regard to the overriding statutory obligations that will rest with the HSE.
I will be pleased to discuss this, and all other provisions contained in the draft contract, with a view to resolving any concerns which the GPs or their representatives may have.
In relation to Deputy Kelleher's question on reference to the Medical Practitioners Act, 2007, the Act is referred to in "Clause 1 Definitions and Interpretation" of the draft contract, in the context of the definition of "Service Provider".There are further references throughout the draft contract to the Irish Medical Council as the relevant competent regulatory body under the Medical Practitioners Act, 2007.
I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate that the document which has been put out for consultation is a draft. I have no doubt that there will be changes to the text following the consultation process. In particular, it is my intention to meet with the ICGP, the IMO and the NAGP in the coming weeks for detailed discussions on the scope and content of the draft contract. This will afford them the fullest opportunity to raise any and all issues which they may have regarding the draft contact and indeed, to make their own proposals as to how it may be improved.