What is the free GP scheme and how do I avail of it?
Looking after a sick child can be a difficult feat for any parent.
You've got plenty of things to worry about - everything from taking time off work to buying the correct medicines can be a point of anxiety, especially if this is your first child.
Luckily though, there is a scheme available under the HSE that can ease the financial burden - the free GP scheme for children under six.
So, what is the free GP scheme?
The free GP scheme for children under the age of six was introduced in 2015 to allow registered children to attend a GP free of charge.
The scheme covers visits and two assessments for children suffering from asthma over this period of time. It also covers house calls and out of office hours.
The scheme does not cover additional medicines your child may need or hospital visits.
If your child is registered under the long term illness scheme, they can receive medicines related to their long term illness, free of charge.
Similarly, if you don't have a medical card you should apply for a drugs payment scheme card - this allows an individual or family to pay a maximum of €144 each month for their approved medicines.
How do I know if my child can avail of it?
To avail of this service, your children will need to be under the age of six, have lived in Ireland for one year, or intend to live in Ireland for one year.
You can register your child online here.
You will need:
- Your child or children's PPS number(s)
- Your PPS number and contact details
- Select your GP of choice
What does the scheme include?
The free scheme includes free GP visits for children under the age of six.
These visits can be availed of using your child's GP visit card at your selected GP.
The scheme also includes two assessments at ages two and five for children suffering from asthma. It does not includes any medicines you child might need and it does not cover hospital visits.
Can I bring my child to any GP using the scheme?
Similar to the medical card system, the free GP scheme only covers GPs who have signed up to the scheme.
If your family doctor hasn't signed up, they either haven't signed the agreement to provide service to children under six years, or they've decide they are not accepting any further registrations.
Your GP not being listed doesn't mean that your child can't avail of this scheme though - you can always pick another doctor who is.
You can check if your GP is listed here.
What happens after my child turns six?
Once your child turns six, the child's GP visit card will expire.
The National Medical Card Unit will inform you three months before your child's birthday that this is set to happen.
After this, the child will no longer be covered under the free GP scheme and you will have to pay for each visit (unless the child has a medical card).