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The Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014 Passed into Law

The Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014, which relates to the provision of free GP care to children aged under six years, was passed into law on July 17th.

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, and Minister of State for Primary and Social Care, Kathleen Lynch TD, accepted an amendment to the legislation from the Seanad which prevents a ‘gagging’ clause from being included in contracts with GPs. The amendment was proposed by Senator John Crown.

In April, I wrote to Mr Tony O’Brien, Director General of the Health Service Executive, to raise concerns about the draft contract related to the legislation, and also sent this correspondence to the then Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly.

In particular, I  raised the concerns of the Medical Council about clause 28.4.4 of the contract, its potential effect on patient advocacy, and the perceived loss of clinical autonomy.

As this legislation comes into law, it is timely to remind doctors of paragraph 4 of the Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners, which states “Your paramount responsibility is to act in the best interests of your patients.  This takes priority over responsibilities to your colleagues and employers.”

This paragraph is of fundamental importance, and the Council will continue to work with partner organisations so that doctors face no impediment in advocating for their patients.