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An observational study of public and private general practitioner consultations in the Republic of Ireland

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The reasons why patients visit their general practitioner (GP) is vital information for fund holders and policy makers. GP consultations in the Republic of Ireland are either paid by the patient on a fee-per-service basis (private patients) or by the state [general medical service (GMS) card holders], and information related to primary care consultations is limited.


The aim of this study was to conduct an observational study of GMS and private consultations within general practice in Ireland.


This is a cross-sectional study of general practitioner consultations.


GPs within existing Continued Medical Education (CME) groups were invited to participate. Participating GPs gathered data on 100 consecutive consultations between September 2008 and April 2010.


There were 16,899 consultations recorded; 53.8 % (9,095) were GMS patients. Patients ≥65 years accounted for 23.69 % of consultations (n = 3,822). Respiratory illnesses accounted for the highest proportion of consultations (3,886, 23.0 %), followed by routine check-ups (15.4 %). GMS patients were more likely to consult for a repeat prescription (OR = 4.04, 95 % CI 2.93–5.57) and were also more likely to consult to review their treatment (OR = 2.33, 95 % CI 1.68–3.22) compared to private patients.


This study displays the consultation behaviour of patients in Ireland. It suggests that inequalities may exist in access to primary care services in ROI; however, more research is required to examine this further. There is insufficient information available on primary healthcare utilisation. Key issues such as the lack of unique patient identifiers and the lack of extractable data from GP practices in ROI need to be addressed.

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The authors would like to sincerely thank the GPs and the CME groups who participated in the study. The study was supported by the Health Service Executive, Ireland.

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Correspondence to C. Bradley.

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Murphy, M., Brodie, G., Byrne, S. et al. An observational study of public and private general practitioner consultations in the Republic of Ireland. Ir J Med Sci 184, 147–152 (2015).

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