The Minister for Health, Simon Harris has announced that he will undertake a process of engagement with representative bodies of contracted health professionals this year, aimed at putting in place a new multi-annual approach to fees, commencing in 2019.
This will be in return for service improvement and contractual reform and in line with Government priorities for the health service.
The engagement will be in the context of the Public Service Pay and Pension Bill 2017, which was designed to deliver an orderly exit from the financial emergency legislation and a return to normal industrial and business relationships.
As part of this, the Government agreed to put the setting and varying of fees for contractors on a statutory basis. In future, the relevant Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, will have the statutory power to set and vary the fees paid to contractors for goods and services, based on a range of considerations including affordability and value for money.
The Department said that given that the State often engages in long-term contracts for the provision of services to citizens, it was vital that the interests of the taxpayer were protected through fluctuations in the economic cycle.
This power to set and vary fees provides for consultation with contracted professionals. The groups involved are general practitioners, community pharmacists, dentists, opticians and opthalmologists.
The Minister said “the Bill provides a pathway towards a new multi-annual approach to fees for primary care contractors whose fees were reduced during the crisis. Of course, the approach to any consultation must be informed by the significant structural reforms and productivity improvements that have been delivered across the public sector in recent years. I look forward to positive and fruitful engagement, in the interests of ensuring the continued delivery and modernisation of care to the patients who rely on the public health services.”