General Practitioners (GPs) provide services to medical card holders free of charge. GPs in the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme enter into contracts with Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide services.
Patients may generally choose their doctor from a panel of doctors who are part of the scheme, provided the doctor is willing to have them as patients. In general, services must be provided by your own doctor but there are arrangements for emergencies and for moving out of your area.
When you apply to your Local Health Office for a medical card, you are given a list of doctors together with a Doctor's Acceptance Form. You can then choose a doctor from the list and ask the doctor to sign the Acceptance Form, which is then returned to the Local Health Office. In general, you must choose a doctor whose surgery is within 7 miles of your home unless there is no doctor within that area.
It could happen that a doctor would be unwilling to take on a new patient. (For example, if he or she already has too many patients. In general, doctors are not supposed to have more than 2,000 GMS patients). If you are unable to find a doctor who is willing to take you on as a patient and have had three GPs refuse you service, the HSE will assign you to a doctor.
The medical card shows your name, date of birth and Personal Public Service Number (PPSN), as well as the date your card expires, if your card is issued for a limited period. If you wish to change doctors, you must complete a Change of Doctor form (available from the Local Health Office) specifying the new doctor.
Some medical cards are issued for a limited period and a review date is shown on the card. In general, that means that the Health Service Executive (HSE) will look again to see if you are still entitled to a card. It does not generally involve choosing a doctor again.
The GP's contract with the HSE specifies the range of services that the doctor must provide for medical card holders. Broadly speaking, these services must be provided at the same level and on the same basis as services to the GP's private patients. This means that, for example, surgery times must be the same for all patients, access to home visits must be the same, etc.
Among the services that the GP must provide for medical card holders are:
There are certain services that GPs are not obliged to provide free of charge, for example, eye tests for a driving licence or for life assurance.
GPs in the GMS scheme are expected to provide or arrange for the provision of appropriate emergency services for their own medical card patients. Rota systems may exist to provide cross-cover arrangements with other doctors in out-of-hours situations.
Apply to your Local Health Office for a medical card. They will give you a list of doctors who are part of the GMS scheme.
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.