Row between GPs and welfare chiefs hitting Longford illness benefit holders in pocket

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Department of Social Protection Offices

A row between GPs and the Department of Social Protection is hitting recipients of illness benefit in the pocket, it has been claimed.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty is facing mounting calls to address a row between her department and GPs which is resulting in recipients of illness benefit being hit in the pocket.

The dispute between doctors and department chiefs centres on the rollout of a new arrangement which will see more contemporary forms replace those previously used concerning illness certification.

However, general practitioners are aggrieved at how the changeover is being handled, so much so that recipients of illness benefit are being hit with a €10 charge each and every time they seek a medical certificate from their GP.

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In correspondence seen by the Leader and which was circulated to patients at a local medical service in recent days, patients were warned about the likely charges they were now facing.

“The Department of Social Protection (DSP) have recently issued new forms in relation to illness certification,” read the notice.

“We have a number of conerns which we have sought clarification on from the DPS, not least of which, are our concerns regarding GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), patient privacy and confidentiality.

“Unfortunately, the Department of Social Protection have refused to fund the use of old forms which means in the interim we have no choice but to charge you €10 for this service.”

Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy called on Ms Doherty to intervene, saying the impasse also called into question the Department's decision to centralise some of its resources from Longford to Dublin in order to improve service delivery in other areas, including those of Disability Allowance.

“We were told that illness (Disablement Benefit) was being moved out of Longford to free up staff and address delivery in other areas, but it now appears this new system that is being introduced has not got the buy in of GPs and social welfare recipients are now being charged a €10 fee,” he said.

Mr Troy said the onus was now very much on Ms Doherty to explain why the introduction of a new system was hitting those who could least afford it the hardest.

“She also needs to come out and explain to people what efforts she is making to bring about a resolution to this situation,” he added.