GPs received €580m for treating medical card patients last year

The highest earning individual GP practice was Dr Austin O'Carroll in Dublin at €974,000. File photograph

More than 1,400 GPs were paid more than €200,000 each for treating medical card patients last year.

Details released under the Freedom of Information Act show 650 practices received more than €300,000 under the scheme.

The total paid out under the scheme in 2019 was €589 million, which was divided between 2,900 GPs.

The highest earning individual practice was Dr Austin O'Carroll in Dublin at €974,000.

Dr O’Carroll said the figure was not an accurate reflection of his income.

“That is the income for my whole practice … we run not just a practice for 2,500 patients but a number of services for homeless people. So altogether I have over 12 GPs working for me as well as other nursing and administrative staff,” he said.

“It doesn’t reflect the total income to work with that group of people and provide the salaries for all the staff.”

Dr Denis McCauley from the Irish Medical Organisation said the figures provided by the HSE implied GPs were receiving much more income than was actually the case.

He said: “This is a totally misleading figure and does not take into account the significant costs GPs incur in running their practices – including staff costs, insurance, the cost of the premises itself and other related costs of running a business.

“Each year the HSE provide figures with no context and with the personal details of GPs which is simply unacceptable.”

Dr McCauley added: “This kind of spin from the HSE, with no context or acknowledgement of the significant efforts of GPs who deliver 25 million consultations each year, does nothing for morale and is certainly not indicative of a collaborative approach to the delivery of healthcare in the community.

“Covid-19 has emphasised the crucial importance of GPs to the health system, who are doing an extraordinary amount of work in unprecedented circumstances.

“The implication that this money goes directly to GPs is very unfair and it is regrettable that we have to emphasise this point yet again,” he said.