Europe

Irish health reform plan 'overambitious' says Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar Image copyright RTE
Image caption Mr Varadkar said he wanted to focus on reforms that improve GP practices and building and developing hospital groups

Irish Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said the timeframe for the reform of the country's health service was overambitious from the start.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, the minister said it would not be possible to get rid of the Health Service Executive structure this year.

He said he wanted to focus on reforms that improve GP practices and building and developing hospital groups.

Mr Varadkar said the 500m euros overrun in healthcare spending was due mainly to a significant increase in the number of people using services this year.

He also said he could not put a deadline on when free GP care for children under six would be available.

When asked if it would be in place as promised by the end of this year, he said: "I can't say that for certain.

"That depends on how the talks and negotiations go with the IMO (Irish Medical Organisation). It is very important to me that we bring GPs with us.

"This is a huge opportunity to put resources back into general practice, I hope they see that, and as well as that, it's an opportunity to change the way we provide healthcare."

Mr Varadkar said he hoped to have a report from an expert group by the end of this month looking at whether medical cards should be issued to people on the basis of their medical condition.

The minister said he would have to see what the group proposed, whether it was affordable and then discuss it in the context of the budget.

He also said the issue of tax relief on health insurance was an issue for Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

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