The Irish Medical Organisation has said cuts to GP fees marks the abandonment by the Government of any ambition to proceed with free GP care.

Last week, Minister for Health James Reilly announced cuts of around 7.5% in fee payments to GPs who treat patients with medical cards.

An emergency session of the IMO's GP group decided on Monday that GPs would withdraw from primary care teams and other work not covered by the medical card contract in protest.

This includes the withdrawal from Community Intervention teams and Clinical Care Programmes (Chronic Disease).

GP Committee chairman Dr Ray Walley said the latest round of cuts will have a massive detrimental impact on patient services.

The IMO said the latest cuts, combined with previous cuts, means €150 million has been taken out of providing GP services to patients.

Concerns over health insurance plans

A report commissioned by Fianna Fáil has questioned the benefit of the Government proceeding with the introduction of a system of Universal Health Insurance.

Dr Brian Turner, an economist at University College Cork, said it is not clear that UHI, as currently envisaged, would solve the problems in the system.

He said that it could be more costly, without significant improvements in health outcomes.

The report -  Health System Funding in Ireland - says there are also concerns about the cost of the system.

In the Netherlands, where UHI was introduced, health care spending per person has risen by 46% between 2005 and 2010.

Dr Turner suggests that maintaining the tax-funded system, controlled by the Government, would have benefits.

He said that thousands of people are being forced to give up their private health insurance cover due to the cost.

The Programme for Government promises Universal Health Insurance by 2016.

Under the model, there would be a one-tiered health system, under which health insurance would be mandatory.

Access to GP and hospital care would be based on need not ability to pay.

The State would pay the cost of insurance cover for those on low incomes and subsidise the cost for some others.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said the report showed that the Government was on the wrong track.

He said the report finds that there is not enough evidence from international systems to suggest a change in the funding mechanism, as planned, would produce benefits sufficient to justify the disruption that the change would cause.