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GPs renew more than 2,000 cards

05 Dec 2014

Dr Ray Walley, IMO

To date, GPs have reinstated 2,008 medical cards in the wake of innovations at the PCRS website. In addition, GPs have completed 384 sensitive renewals, removed 19,189 medical cards and added 21,770 babies to the GMS register following recent changes to the PCRS GP online suite, it has emerged.

Meanwhile, the IMO has given a “cautious welcome” to reforms of the medical card system announced by the Minister for Health. The IMO said that the proposals accepted the important role of “discretion” in relation to granting medical cards and this was an acknowledgement by the Government that they had “got it wrong” when they tried to remove discretion from the process in the first place.

A clinical advisory group will shortly be established by the HSE to develop guidance on assessing applications involving significant medical conditions so as to take account of the burden involved and the needs arising from the condition, and to ensure that appropriate services are provided to people who need them. This guidance will be drawn up by this group over the coming months.

The HSE will engage with the IMO to encourage and support the use by GPs of the facility to temporarily extend the validity of discretionary medical cards where sensitive renewal is appropriate.

Ministers have asked the HSE to examine, with the Department of Health, the best way to meet the needs of people with significant medical conditions who need the support of the public health system. This work includes considering the best way to make medical aids and appliances available to persons who do not hold a medical card, the provision of services to children with severe disabilities, and to enable people with particular needs to have these met on an individual basis rather than awarding a medical card to all family members.

Dr Ray Walley, Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, said there were positive signs that the Government had “learnt an important lesson”. “We welcome the acknowledgement that you can’t simply eliminate the role of discretion. We welcome the acknowledgement of the role of the general practitioner in decisions on medical cards and we welcome the acceptance that different elements have to be weighed up in reaching decisions on who should get a medical card.”

Prof Frank Keane’s Expert Panel recommended that a person’s means should remain the main qualifier for a medical card, but there was to be an enhanced assessment process that would take into account the burden of an illness or a condition. Greater exchange of information is pledged between the medical card central assessment office and the local health offices.

People with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card will retain their card pending implementation of the actions to improve the operation of the scheme and the power of GPs to extend medical cards in difficult circumstances will be strengthened. The default position for medical cards given to people with terminal illnesses is that they will no longer be reviewed.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times