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According to the policy, Labour will achieve “significant steps” towards the “full rollout” of universal healthcare by 2021.
“We will provide free access to GP care, develop more nurse-led services, lower the cost of medicines and increase funding for primary care, community care and our hospitals,” it adds.
The HSE estimates that the delivery of free GP care for all will require an additional 1,426 full-time GPs in Ireland by 2021.
Labour said it has a plan to deliver these additional GPs, with a particular focus on three approaches: recruiting new GPs; retaining more of those who are thinking of leaving the profession; and encouraging returners, particularly those who have gone abroad to work.
“We will supplement these approaches with better supports for part-time GPs who might consider working full-time, and the direct employment of 200 GPs in rural areas. Labour’s plan will add 1,428 full-time GPs to primary care over the next five years – an appropriate increase to provide free GP care for all.
The party also intends increasing the annual intake into GP postgraduate specialist training to 200 each year.
Other commitments include reducing the threshold of the Drug Payment Scheme to €100 for families and €75 for single persons, and delivering lower prescription charges capped at €20 per month.
“We will also introduce a Minor Ailments Scheme to expand the role of the community pharmacist so that patients with medical cards can go straight to their pharmacies for free non-prescription medicines to treat mild conditions.”
A new Cabinet Minister position, with responsibility for primary care, would be created to oversee developments in this area.
Speaking at the launch in Cork on Friday, Tánaiste Joan Burton said: “The last five years have been challenging for the health service and the people who work in it. It has been a time of change; a time of reform and a time when resources have been stretched. The system is far from perfect. But there have also been significant successes.”
She said Labour’s health plan sets out “an ambitious programme” for the next five years and beyond. “One of these steps will be a plan to increase the number of GPs. We will need to train more doctors. We will need to retain more doctors within the system. We will need to encourage some who have left the system to come back.”
Junior Minister for Primary Care, Kathleen Lynch, added: “Labour has had a positive influence on the development of healthcare policies over the past five years during a very difficult and financially constrained time.
“As a party at the heart of government we have been in a position to ensure that services for older people, those with disabilities and mental health needs were protected and developed. Furthermore, we delivered free GP care for the under-sixes and over-70s.
“Given the potential to develop primary care, the Labour Party believe it merits its own separate focus, its own budget and its own cabinet minister.”
The health policy of coalition partner Fine Gael is being released this afternoon.
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