Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
637. To ask the Minister for Health his views on whether the charge of €50 applied for a phone consultation with out-of-hours general practitioner services is excessive; if he will work with stakeholders to reduce the fee in view of the fact some consultations can be brief in nature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8265/20]
Under the GMS scheme, the HSE contracts GPs to provide medical services to medical card and GP visit card holders. The GMS contract stipulates that GPs must make suitable arrangements to enable contact to be made with them, or a locum/deputy, for urgent cases outside normal practice hours. Most GPs choose to participate in GP out of hours cooperatives to meet this contractual obligation.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient in-person contact with GPs has been curtailed as much as possible to help prevent the spread of the virus. Nurse and doctor advice is provided over the phone where appropriate, and only patients who are clinically assessed as requiring a face to face consultation with a doctor are referred for an appointment.
GPs are reimbursed by the HSE for medical services provided to medical card or GP visit card holders, while patients who do not hold a medical card or GP visit card access GP services on a private basis, and the fees charged by GPs for services to private patients are a matter of private contract between the GP and their patients.
Similarly, cooperatives that provide out of hour GP services are private companies and therefore the fees charged to their private patients are a matter of private contract between the company and their patients. I have no role in relation to the fees charged by individual GPs or GP out of hours service providers for private consultations.