GP surgeries will be able to cope with any increase in demand for appointments following yesterday’s £20 fee reduction, the Primary Care Body has said.
The move, announced by Social Security Minister Elaine Millar, will also see practices paid an additional £5 per consultation to support them with the increased costs of running their businesses.
Dr Gordon Callander, of the PCB, which represents GPs, admitted that the cost-cutting measure might cause a ‘slight increase’ in demand for appointments, but said that was a ‘positive thing’ as it meant people were not putting off seeing their doctor for problems that could be time sensitive.
He explained that ‘nobody knows for certain’ how the reduction in GP costs might affect waiting times. However, Dr Callander said that any impact would probably be most noticeable at first and then fall away.
He reassured patients that all GP surgeries have their own measures to ‘accommodate people at short notice’.
The reduction applies only to visits in normal surgery hours. Home or out-of-hours visits, telephone consultations and consultations with other health professionals, such as nurses or health care assistants, will continue to be supported by other Health Insurance Fund agreements and not by this new scheme.
Members of the Health Access Scheme already pay a reduced fee of £12 for a GP and so the £20 reduction will not apply.
Deputy Millar also said this week that she hoped that free GP visits for children could also be in place by as soon as July.