Jury is out on annual GP check – Tánaiste

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has questioned the benefits of annual GP checks. 

Addressing Dáil Éireann today during questions on Promised Legislation, the Tánaiste said, “Speaking as a doctor, the idea of an annual check…. the jury is actually out on that quite frankly. Sometimes it does pick up on illnesses and abnormalities that wouldn’t be picked up until later and sometimes early intervention can result in better outcomes. It can also result in a lot of unnecessary investigations.  You’ll know of people who have been for a health check and were sent off for any number of tests, all of which came back normal. Not only does that increase anxiety, but it also sometimes results in the waste of resources and misuse of resources so that always has to be borne in mind.”

The Tánaiste and former Minister for Health was responding to a proposal put forward by Michael McNamara TD that the Government consider providing one free GP and dental visit to all instead of increasing the provision of unlimited free GP visit cards to some. McNamara pointed out that this budget measure was criticised by some doctors as having “no medical benefit”. 

“There is a large cohort out there who never visit a GP during the year,” Deputy McNamara said, “By contrast, there is the Treatment Benefit Scheme where people have annual access to dental, optical, aural and non-surgical hair replacement treatment. Would there be a medical benefit to everybody seeing a doctor at least once a year and primary students being able to see a dentist, if not once a year every second year, because the waiting list is huge for the HSE screening service?”

In response, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar pointed out: “What we have agreed in the Budget is an expansion of GP care without fees to more people and government will be keen to engage with the IMO on how we can realise that over the next couple of years.”