General Practitioner (GP) is the official term for the doctor who provides services to people in his/her surgery, in a primary care centre or in the patient's home. Many people refer to GPs as their doctor or family doctor.
GPs provide services free of charge to medical card holders. Visits by GP Visit Card holders are also free of charge, but other services may not be. They also provide maternity and infant welfare services and services to certain people with Hepatitis C free of charge. Other patients must pay for GP service.
It was announced in Budget 2014 that free GP care will be introduced during 2014 for children aged 5 years and under. This will require legislation.
A qualified doctor may set up in General Practice provided he/she meets all the requirements of the Irish Medical Council, which is the regulatory body for doctors. Some doctors then enter into contracts with Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide GP services to medical card holders.
Medical card holders choose an individual doctor for services.
Some doctors only cater for private patients. Most doctors who cater only for private patients provide services to them on behalf of the HSE in areas such as maternity and infant welfare services and vaccinations.
You can check that a doctor is registered and verify their qualifications on the Medical Council's Search for a Registered Doctor facility.
The Medical Council also gives guidance on all matters related to professional conduct and ethics for registered doctors, see their Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Doctors.pdf.
There is a per-item charge for approved prescribed drugs and medicines for medical card holders and people with Hepatitis C who have Health Amendment Act Cards. (Certain low cost items which you can buy over the counter are not approved). People with certain long-term illnesses may get the approved prescribed drugs and medicines for those illnesses free of charge. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, individuals or families who are registered with their Local Health Office pay only a maximum of €144 per calendar month (in 2013) for approved prescribed drugs and medicines.
In general, you get prescribed drugs and medicines from your local pharmacy. Virtually all pharmacies have contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide approved prescribed drugs and medicines to medical card holders, people with Hepatitis C who have Health Amendment Cards and long-term illness card holders and to implement the Drugs Payment Scheme. In certain circumstances, drugs and medicines may be provided directly by doctors or by hospitals and other specialist institutions.
There are strict government rules about the setting up and staffing of community pharmacies. These rules deal with the qualifications of staff and the general control of the sale of drugs.
If you are a medical card holder or have a Health Amendment Act Card or a Long-Term Illness Scheme card, you can go to any community pharmacist to have your prescription filled; you do not become a patient of a particular pharmacist as you do with a particular doctor.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.