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HSE must address difficulties of medical card holders accessing GP care – Higgins

3rd October 2023 - Emer Higgins, TD

The Health Service Executive (HSE) must address the inconsistency in its policies and guidelines surrounding GP assignments for medical card holders, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Emer Higgins has highlighted a discrepancy in the HSE’s guidance about getting a GP. Previously, if you tried and failed to get a doctor three times, the HSE would step in and help you find one. Now, this is no longer the case.

Deputy Higgins said: “The Medical Card team has confirmed that since 11th September 2023, the HSE no longer assigns GPs, regardless of when the request was made.

“This is causing much confusion for patients, as the HSE’s website still states they will assist in such cases, although Citizens Information states that those in need must seek out a GP on their own. Providing a list of doctors, most of whom no longer have openings for new patients, isn’t helping. This contradictory messaging is causing confusion, and clarity is desperately needed for those seeking medical assistance.

“While many GPs offer invaluable services, not all are part of the HSE’s medical card scheme, which poses challenges for those dependent on it. The shortfall of GPs operating within the medical card system remains a challenge.

“However, I welcome the fact that Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, has taken a step forward by announcing the addition of 665 places in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and other key healthcare courses, which includes 60 more college places for future doctors.

“As GP access dwindles, more people are turning to A+E, further straining the system. The HSE needs to urgently address this and better support those searching for a GP.

“I urge the HSE to recognise the gravity of this situation and take immediate steps. We need clear communication, efficient support systems, and a renewed commitment to ensure everyone in our community has access to GP services.”

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