If you are normally living in Ireland, you are entitled to free out-patient public hospital services in public and voluntary hospitals but some people may have to pay an initial hospital charge. Certain visitors to Ireland may also be entitled to services.
Out-patient services are generally taken to include accident and emergency services as well as planned services provided on an out-patient basis. For example, you may be referred by your family doctor (GP) for specialist assessment by a consultant or his or her team or for diagnostic assessments such as x-rays, laboratory tests, physiotherapy, etc.
In general, you may refer yourself to the out-patients department of a public or voluntary hospital but you do not incur hospital charges if you are referred by a GP. You do not have to pay for consultants' services and you do not have a choice of consultants.
If you want to avail of a private consultant's services, you should make arrangements with your GP to be referred for an appointment in the consultant's rooms and you must pay the full cost involved.
Deaf and hard of hearing patients are entitled to interpretation services in public hospitals in Ireland. You should notify your public hospital that you are deaf or hard of hearing, in advance of your visit so they can make any necessary arrangements.Further information regarding these services is available from the Director of Disability Services at your local Health Office.
If you go to the out-patients, accident and emergency or casualty department of a public hospital without being referred there by a GP, you may be charged €100 (since 1 January 2009). There is no charge if you are referred by a GP. This charge does not apply to the following groups:
In cases of excessive hardship, the Health Service Executive (HSE) may provide the service free of charge.If you have to return for further visits to an out-patient clinic in relation to the same illness or accident, you should not have to pay the charge again.
You can refer yourself to an out-patients department or get a letter of referral from your GP.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is obliged to provide out-patient public hospital services for everyone with full and limited eligibility. That is, people who have medical cards and those who do not. The duty to provide these services is set out under Section 56 of Health Act 1970 as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 1987 and the Health (Amendment) Act 1991.
This entitlement doesn’t mean you are necessarily entitled to free
out-patient services. Charges for out-patient services are provided for in SI 37 of 1994 Health
(Out-Patient Charges) Regulations 1994 as amended. Further information on hospital charges is
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.