Medical Q&As

GP fees - repeat visits?

I have a 7-month-old girl and she has suffered from chest infection over the last two months. Each time we bring her to our GP he charges €32 per visit. We have been to see him five times in that space of time. I have a brother in Kildare and if he brings his child to the doctor for the same reason he only pays for the first visit and any visits after this for the same condition are free. Can you comment please?

Your question illustrates that practice can vary between different GPs however; most GPs do charge a fee for each consultation albeit on a sliding scale for repeat visits. For example if a GP advised a patient to return for review having completed a course of antibiotics it would be quite common for that doctor to charge a fee for that visit but a reduced fee might apply. I am assuming in this hypothetical scenario that the visit was brief and only for the purpose of a quick examination to be sure that the signs of infection had resolved. However, if that consultation was just as lengthy as the first and new issues were raised then the doctor might charge the full fee. Your question suggests that you expected that you would not have to pay for each subsequent visit after your child’s first presentation with a chest infection. If that were the case that means that you would have received 5 consultations for an all-inclusive fee of €32, which averages out at €6.40 per consultation. Any practice applying such a fee structure would not be economically viable. People rightly expect more from their doctors nowadays but it is impossible to deliver a quality service for €6.40 per consultation. Your question also assumes that the child has attended on each of the five occasions with the same infection. It would be extremely unusual for a child to suffer from the same infection for a period of five months. It is far more likely that the child had suffered from separate discrete episodes of infection. I suggest that you discuss these matters with your doctor and I would hope that the doctor would be very open to discussing these matters with you. If you are not happy with the explanations you receive then you can reconsider if you wish to keep attending that practice. There is plenty of choice available especially if you live in a city. Finally, I know many doctors throughout the length and breadth of Ireland and I would think that the Kildare doctor’s practice of not charging any fee for further visits is extremely rare. The majority will charge a fee albeit a reduced one.