The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has instructed Phelim O’Neill Solicitors to institute legal action against the HSE for deductions made from payments to GPs who charge patients for blood tests in contravention of their contract.
GPs previously offered phlebotomy services pro bono but have lately been forced to introduce charges owing to increasing economic pressures.
NAGP CEO Chris Goodey on Monday said: “We are continuing our action in relation to phlebotomy. The PCRS is directly taking money from doctors where they charge patients for phlebotomy. We have been in contact with our lawyers for the last three months.
“Phelim O’Neill and associates have started putting together the case in relation to that. In our view, it’s unfitting and a breach of contract to deduct monies varying from a couple of hundred euro to a couple of thousand euro per month per GP.”
With up to 70 per cent of GPs affected by the deductions, Goodey said the Association would sue “on a matter of principle” in the form of a test case.
The Association warned the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in March last year that it would take a lawsuit for breach of the GMS GP contract if attempts were made to deduct payments.
The warning followed PCRS Assistant National Director Paddy Burke’s letter to GPs across the country stating that the PCRS would deduct payments at source from GPs who charged medical card patients for carrying out blood tests.
Goodey had outlined to Burke that it was the view of the NAGP that blood tests carried out in GP surgeries, outside of hospital units where phlebotomy was free, were “not part of the GMS contract”.
“We advise our members to always make the patient aware that they can have their blood tests performed at the local hospital for free or they can pay a fee for the service provided by their general practitioner,” his letter stated.
“If there is any attempt to deduct payments from our members we reserve the right to initiate legal proceedings, in the event that such proceedings become necessary this letter will be used to ground an application for the costs of such proceedings.”