#RealityCheck: What happened to free GP care?

Fine Gael is set to drop the election promise from their manifesto... so where did it go wrong?

#RealityCheck: What happened to free GP care?

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Health Minister Leo Varadkar has cast aside plans to introduce free GP care for all. Fine Gael is set to drop the promise of free GP care from its election manifesto.

The party will instead will instead commit to introducing free GP care for children up to 18.

Charles Normand, Edward Kennedy Professor of Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin and Dr Padraig McGarry spoke to Newstalk Breakfast this morning about the promise being dropped.

Why has Leo ditched the commitment?

Mr Normand commented: "Simply, they've come to realise there's still a big job to be done in terms of building that capacity (additional GPs). 

"The Minister said in that clip that there was a shortage of perhaps 500 GPs, it may be a bit more than that but certainly there's a big job to be done to put in place additional GPs but also probably just as importantly, additional nurses, other capacities in the community."

Dr Padraig McGarry agreed: "There has been a failure to develop capacity that was required to deliver this in the first place. If anything, that capacity has been eroded through the various cuts in the last number of years, up to €160 million to the various vehicles that were going to deliver it."

Is there a shortage of GPs? What happened to the promise of primary care development?

Dr McGarry stated: "A large proportion of those who are now trained are looking at the hostile environment that has been created in which GPs now work in and have decided, it's not for them.

"There is a lack of certainty about career structures and certainly financial implications are there as well. A lot of them have decided at this point in time, they're going to go elsewhere where they're perhaps better looked after.

"The reality is if this can be implemented correctly, if the capacity issue is addressed and the capacity issue will only be addressed by addressing the core issue here which is the poor contract and the lack of resources."

You can listen to their interview here: 

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