Wednesday, 2 March 2022
Department of Health
General Practitioner Services
206. To ask the Minister for Health if he will address the inability of persons to access antenatal and postnatal general practitioner care if they opt for a home birth despite their entitlement under the maternity and infant care scheme; the steps he is taking to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12001/22]
The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme provides an agreed programme of care to expectant mothers ordinarily resident in Ireland. This combined medical service is provided by the family GP and a hospital obstetrician and includes a schedule of alternating examinations at the GP’s practice and a maternity unit/hospital, as well as two post-natal visits to the GP. Private medical indemnity providers currently do not provide indemnity cover to GPs for services under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme if a patient is opting for a home birth.
The State indemnifies enterprises on behalf of the Minister for Health under the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS) when national policy confirms that this should be provided. This includes Community Midwives who have an SLA with the HSE for the provision of home births. In the case of GPs, they are private practitioners and to date services provided by them and by GP practice nurses are not covered by the CIS. Instead, as private practitioners, GPs receive professional indemnity from private medical indemnity providers. As this is an arrangement between two private parties, the medical indemnity cover provided is a matter for GPs and their private insurers.
The National Maternity Strategy aims to ensure that appropriate care pathways are in place in order that mothers, babies and families get the right care, at the right time, by the right team and in the right place. The Strategy makes it clear that women should be offered a choice regarding their preferred pathway of care, in line with their clinical needs and best practice, including in regard to the birth setting. Further discussions need to take place with relevant parties to agree national policy on the role of GPs in relation to home births, in the context of the National Maternity Strategy.