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Leo Varadkar at the official opening of the Russell Primary Care Centre in Tallaght

Taoiseach and Simon Harris confident of ‘quick’ GP contract negotiations

Taoiseach said his Government “gets” GPs’ frustration over FEMPI cuts, increased workload

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have both expressed confidence they could “quickly” negotiate a new contract with general practitioners (GPs) — but only if both sides were “reasonable”.

At the official opening of the Russell Centre Primary Care Unit in Tallaght, South County Dublin last Friday, Minister Simon Harris hoped a new contract would be agreed by the autumn.

He revealed he had a “significant amount of resources” at his disposal but would not reveal the exact figure “because it is a negotiation”.

Asked by the Irish Medical Times if talks between officials from his Department and GP representatives had begun, he replied: “Formal engagements are now commencing. I think we can make a lot of progress within a matter of months, but it takes two sides willing to make progress.”

The Minister also confirmed he planned to speak to representatives from both the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), but doubted it would in the same room.

He said: “We are obviously going to engage with the IMO and we are also going to find a mechanism whereby we can also involve and engage the NAGP, who have good ideas.

“I am not going to get caught up in the medical politics here. I want to keep the patients at the centre of this. But we want to spend an awful lot more on general practice. I have the backing of the Taoiseach, and the Minster for Public Expenditure to do that and we are going to get on with that work now.”

Earlier at the same event, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his Government “gets” GPs’ frustration over FEMPI cuts and an increased workload arising from the introduction of free GP care for under-sixes.

He also confirmed there was “money on the table” to do a deal. “So I think that if both sides are reasonable, we can do a deal quite quickly,” he said. However, any such agreement would likely include “new services” such as the widening of free GP care, he cautioned.

He added: “Morale, at the moment, across general practice, is certainly not good.

“Unlike those of us who are employees, the FEMPI cuts are off the top rather than off the bottom and do impact not just on take-home pay but across other resources available to practices and patients.”

peter.doyle@imt.ie

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