Doctors who are members of the National Association of General Practitioners are meeting local TDs in Limerick tonight to discuss what they describe as a crisis in general practice.

They will also discuss their dissatisfaction with the current contract on offer to them from the Department of Health, which they describe as "unworkable".

Free GP care for children under six is due to be introduced in the middle of the year. It is expected to cost €37m this year and will require legislation.

The department is looking at changes to the General Medical Services contract with GPs to allow the scheme to be introduced.

It will be up to GPs to decide whether or not to participate in providing the service.

Tonight's meeting is one of a series of meetings organised across the country. The first meeting in Cork last month was attended by 260 GPs.

Over 150 general practice doctors from counties Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary are expected to attend tonight's meeting.

CEO of the NAGP Chris Goodey said GPs and the primary care sector are under huge pressure as a consequence.

"They are working far too many hours, and patient consultation times are being reduced. In addition, many practices are closing or insolvent, and trainee GPs are going abroad," Mr Goodey said.

He said the majority of many GPs' income comes from the Government and the current contract for GPs from the department is "not workable" and has been presented to GPs without any consultation.

Under that contract, it is proposed that GPs who treat children under six, who are entitled to free medical care, will received €74 per year per child.

"The Department of Health seem to be determined to dismantle the one part of the health service which is working," Mr Goodey said.