The National Association of General Practitioners is appalled to learn that for the last two years there has been a facility available to allow GPs to extend medical cards on a discretionary basis, but which none of its GP members were made aware of.

It is understood that the system was negotiated as part of an agreement between the HSE and the IMO in 2011. However, the NAGP says none of its members had ever been informed of the provision.

Chris Goodey, CEO of the NAGP said: “None of the GPs that I have spoken to in the last 24 hours were aware that such a facility existed. The question is why GPs  and patients were not informed of this?

“The systematic cull of discretionary medical cards which has taken place over recent years has caused immeasurable hardship and distress to so many people. To hear now that this option, while limited, was available all along but was not publicised, is reprehensible. I have spoken to GPs throughout the country today. Many have said that they have repeatedly petitioned the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service in relation to reinstating patients’ Medical Cards and at no time did the PCRS inform them that any facility was available.

“Yet again this demonstrates the need for full engagement between the Department of Health, the HSE and GPs on the ground. Situations like this are easily avoided but will continue to occur unless the Department and HSE actively engage with the entire GP community. If it were not for the fact that the NAGP is being excluded from the current negotiating process, we might have been in a position to relay this important information to our members. Instead we are left with a situation where GPs are left frustrated and patients are, once again, left disadvantaged,” Mr Goodey said.