There are about 2,500 General Practitioners, or GPs, in Ireland, working in group practices, primary care centres, single practices and health centres around Ireland. The GP plays a central role in the health care system and is often the first medical advice a person seeks when they feel unwell.
GPs provide a broad service to their patients on all health issues, and may refer patients to see specialists or hospital consultants if more specific investigation is required. GPs play a central role in the health of our community, caring for people from birth and childhood, through to older age and end of life care.
If your GP refers you for a public out-patient appointment, to a public hospital for an x-ray or blood test, or to an Emergency Department, you will not be charged for the hospital services. If you go directly to an Emergency Department without a GP referral, there is a charge for the service.
Most GPs in Ireland are private practitioners, but the majority of GPs provide services on behalf of the HSE, to people with Medical Cards, GP Visit Cards and other schemes. Most GPs also provide immunisation services free to patients on behalf of the HSE, and through the Mother and Infant Care Scheme, some visits during pregnancy are also paid for by the HSE. Most people who don't have a Medical Card or GP Visit Card will pay a fee for a GP visit.
In Ireland, there are a range of schemes in place to assist people with the cost of visiting the GP or the cost of medication. You can read more about them here, and also find out how to apply.
Medical Cards: Provides free GP visits, a range of medications and other products free of charge to people below a certain income, or with other eligibility
Drugs Payment Scheme: Prescription costs over €144 per month, per family are paid for by the HSE through this scheme
Long Term Illness Scheme: Provides medication and other aids for people with specific conditions