Reilly sees bigger role for practice nurses in free GP care scheme

The Health Minister James Reilly has said practice nurses could be used to assess whether patients need to see their doctor at all, when free GP care is introduced.

Dr Reilly was responding to questions at the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on health today, on his plan to bring in the scheme in 2015.

Fianna Fáil's health spokesman Billy Kelleher questioned the minister on how he could see GP's who currently charge €55 a visit being brought into a scheme providing free care.

Minister Reilly said he expects "tough" negotiations with doctors on how the payment scheme will work.

However, he said changing the system to see a bigger role played by a practice nurse would also help.

He said: "If all patients have free GP care, then there is absolutely no reason why the practice nurse wouldn't see the patient before the GP would and with their professionalism decide whether they need to see the GP at all.

"The amount of patients that attend with sore respiratory tracts, with children with high temperatures, most of these are self-limiting viral illnesses that the nurse would be able to deal with without any difficulty."

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