Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne raised the issue of GPs charging medical card holders for blood samples in certain circumstances at the HSE Regional Health Forum.
Cllr Kilcoyne asked: "Is the cost of taking a blood sample by a GP covered in all circumstances for medical card holders? If not in what circumstances is it not covered? If a GP charges a medical card holder for taking blood in circumstances where the cost of same is covered by the medical card, what action does the HSE propose to take on the matter?
In a written response to his query, Breda Crehan-Roche, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare West, informed the councillor that GPs could charge for samples, if they made a clinical judgement that the particular treatment or service request was not clinically necessary. Her written response stated: "Under the terms of the GMS Contract, GPs are required to provide eligible patients with “all proper and necessary treatment of a kind usually undertaken by a General Practitioner and not requiring special skill or experience of a degree or kind which General Practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess”. Where the practice based phlebotomy service forms part of the investigation and necessary treatment of a patient’s symptoms or conditions by the patient’s GP, the service should be provided free of charge where the patient is a Medical Card or GP Visit Card holder.
"However in circumstances where GPs, in the exercise of their clinical judgement, determine that a particular treatment or service requested by an eligible patient is not clinically necessary, but the patient still requests to receive same, it is at the GP's discretion as to whether they impose a charge for providing the service/treatment in question. This includes the taking of blood which, in the opinion of the GP, is not clinically necessary eg for screening purposes.
"If a patient feels that they have been wrongly charged for the taking of blood, they can submit the relevant receipt to the HSE at local level and request that the matter be investigated. If following an examination of the matter, in conjunction with the relevant GP, the HSE at local level is satisfied that the charge was incorrectly imposed, the Primary Care Re-Imbursement Service (PCRS ) section of the HSE is requested to make a refund to the patient from monies owing to the GP."