A general practitioner, or GP, is a doctor who
works from a private surgery of health board premised, rather than a hospital.
There is no national register of general practitioners in Ireland, though the
Medical Council is currently drawing up a specialist register of Irish GPs.
It is estimated that there are more than 2,500 GPs in Ireland. GPs are private
entrepreneurs. They run their own surgeries, hire administrative staff, and
generally function like any other small business.
Most Irish GPs have both medical card (GMS) and
private patients. Private patients are charged a fee per visit or service, which
varies from surgery to surgery, though most commonly this fee is between €25
and €35. Medical card holding patients are seen without direct charge to
the individual. The doctor receives an annual payment for each such patient
from the GMS and other payments for special services.
To attend a doctor in Ireland as a medical card
patient, you must first register with their practice. Patients have the right
to choose their own GP, and may change doctors if they wish. GPs, in turn, have
the right to refuse to accept a patient, for example if they felt their practice
was becoming too large, though this is quite rare.
Private patients also select their own GP. GPs
maintain a medical record for every patient in their practice. It is a good
idea to become a patient of a particular practice so that you have a GP to call
on, even if it is for routine matters such as check-ups and insurance medicals.
GPs offer a very wide range of services to patients.
For example, most practices offer the full range of family planning services
and carry out minor surgery. Its a good idea to ask for a list of practice
The hours that the practice is open varies. Doctors
have a variety of arrangements in place to provide cover for patients over a
24 hour period. These include rotas with other colleagues or deputising services.
If a GP believes that a patient requires more specialist
attention or care, the GP will arrange for them to be referred to the appropriate
health professional. In this way, GPs act as "gatekeepers" to the
wider health system, such as hospitals and specialist clinics.
The Irish College of General Practitioners
provides information on general practitioner services.