herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Parents to save €175 per child in doctor deal for under sixes

Health

The free under six GP care scheme will save families an average of €175 per child every year, a new survey reveals.

However, while an overwhelming majority of GPs have now signed up to the scheme, almost nine in ten (87pc) feel the fee they are being offered is not enough, the figures claim.

A survey carried out by private healthcare search engine WhatClinic.com, found 83pc of the GP clinics surveyed felt the scheme will hit city centre clinics harder financially as they have bigger overheads.

The new scheme offers GPs a basic capitation fee of €125-a-year per child.

Figures show that the average price of a GP consultation in Dublin is highest countrywide at €55, compared to a national average of €50.

Meanwhile, the lowest GP fees in the country are in Leitrim where an average of €39 is charged.

However, GP consultation prices have remained almost static in the past few years, with a marginal 2pc increase in the national average since 2013, according to WhatClinic.com.

Director Emily Ross said that its latest poll of GP clinics and families nationwide, revealed variations in the number of consultations that are sought.

"Our poll indicates that while there are indeed families who find themselves frequently visiting the doctor, there are also families who very rarely need a GP," she said.

Peak

"The majority of families polled visited their GP between two and five times per year per child, with an average of 3.5 visits a year," said Ms Ross.

"Of course, this doesn't take into consideration the times of year when illnesses peak, such as starting creche, back to school and winter bugs, nor does it allow for the times children have recurring ear and throat issues," said Ms Ross.

"How these peak times are managed by GPs remains to be seen," she said.

"Some GPs have flagged that under sixes aren't the best group to qualify first for free GP care, but as an initial step towards universal health care, the very young are not a bad place to start," she said.

"Parents who are already struggling to make ends meet now have one less headache when their youngest children become ill," she added.

The survey data was based on responses from 23 GP clinics around the country and 27 families in Ireland.

Meanwhile, figures supplied to the Herald yesterday by the HSE reveal that in excess of 114,000 children have now been registered for the scheme.

The number of GPs who have signed up is now approaching the 90pc mark, the figures show.

A total of 2,116 contracts have been returned by GPs to the HSE, out of a total of 2,436 (87pc). The rate in the Dublin south west region is at 88pc.

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