Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced the opening of registrations for free GP care for children aged 6-7. The Under 6s GP Visit Card scheme has been expanded to become the Under 8s GP Visit Card scheme now providing free GP care for all children aged under 8 in Ireland. The move represents the first stage in the biggest expansion in eligibility for free GP care in the history of the State covering up to 500,000 people.
Announcing the opening of registrations Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said, “I am delighted to announce that registrations for children aged 6 and 7 for the expanded Under 8s GP Visit Card scheme will open today, while current GP visit cards will be automatically extended until a child’s 8th birthday. This expansion will provide free GP care to approximately 78,000 children aged 6 and 7 across Ireland who currently access GP care on a private basis. This will ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing healthcare and provides vital support to families dealing with cost of living challenges. The move is an important step towards universal healthcare.”
Parents can register children aged 6 and 7 for a GP visit card at hse.ie. For many children there will be no need to register as children who turned 6 after 1 July 2023 will have their cards extended automatically by the HSE.
This expansion is supported by the landmark agreement between the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Irish Medical Organisation signed in July 2023 which put in place a series of financial supports for GPs.
Minister Donnelly said, “we are committed to making healthcare affordable for families. We have abolished inpatient charges, first for children and then for all – saving families up to €800 per year. We have brought the maximum amount payable by households under the Drug Payment Scheme down to €80 per month. We have also continued to build on our collaboration with General Practice and secured an agreement with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) which supports GPs to recruit and retain more staff to better meet demand. We are investing in a significant increase in GP training places, with a recent announcement outlining how training places would increase by a third by 2024, and have partnered with the Irish College of General Practitioners on its very successful non-EU GP Training Scheme which is delivering immediate increased capacity.”
“This expansion of the GP Visit Card scheme marks a significant milestone as we provide families with access to free GP care for children up to 7 years old, extending care for an extra 2 years of a child’s life. I am committed to ensuring that cost will not be a barrier for children’s healthcare. Ensuring that children in Ireland can visit their GP for free gives them access to healthcare at the right time to help ensure their long-term health and wellbeing.”
This expansion of free GP care to children aged 6 and 7 is the first stage of the expansion in eligibility for GP care without charges under the GP Agreement 2023. It will be followed by the expansion of free GP care to people earning up to the median income in September and November this year. In total, approximately 500,000 additional individuals are estimated to become eligible under this expansion, 78,000 children aged 6 and 7 and 430,000 individuals earning up to the median income. As this is the largest expansion in eligibility for GP care without charges ever undertaken, it is necessary to phase its introduction to avoid logjams in the application process. Applications under the median-income expansion will commence in two phases, on 11 September and 13 November.