The Competition Authority has given the Irish Medical Organisation until Monday to justify a proposed withdrawal by GPs from a number of GMS schemes.

Yesterday the Authority gave the IMO until 4pm today to rescind the decision, which it says breaches competition law.

This afternoon the IMO confirmed that it had sought an extension until Wednesday next to examine the legal implications of what it described as "complex" matters.

However, the Authority has only extended its deadline until midday on Monday.

Last Wednesday the IMO criticised cuts in GP payments imposed by the recent emergency FEMPI legislation. It announced the GPs would be withdrawing from Primary Care Teams, Community Intervention Schemes and Clinical Care Programmes dealing with chronic disease.

They also warned that they would be referring all pro bono work not covered by the GMS contract to the most appropriately resourced service.

They claimed that in total the Government has cut €150m from GP services, and that that would impact on patient care.

In this afternoon's statement, the Authority says it believes it is clear from the press release issued by the IMO that the withdrawal of services is directly linked to the decision of the Government to cut fees paid to GPs.

It states that withdrawing services, regardless of claims that they may be free or pro bono, is viewed as an attempt to directly or indirectly fix the fees that are paid by the government under the GMS contract.

It concludes by stating that self-employed GPs are subject to competition law, as they are private businesses. However, employees who may act collectively represented by a union are not subject to competition law.