The Competition Authority and the Irish Medical Organisation have settled a court case over whether the IMO could negotiate collective agreements on behalf of its members who were self-employed.

Under the settlement, the IMO will be entitled to improved engagement with the Department of Health and/or the Health Service Executive on publicly funded contracts.

However, the minister will retain the final decision-making power on fees.

The IMO has given a High Court undertaking that it will not organise or recommend collective withdrawal of services or boycotts by members.

The Competition Authority said that the IMO had also undertaken to advise members that they should decide individually and not collectively whether to participate in publicly funded GP health services on such terms offered by the minister.

Last July, the Competition Authority took legal action against the IMO because under competition law, self-employed individuals cannot act collectively with the aim of affecting fees paid to them.

The IMO had threatened to withdraw from publicly funded schemes.

Today the case was struck out with no order for cost after the two sides reached a settlement.

In future, the IMO will be permitted to represent members with the HSE and the Government regarding any proposed changes to publicly funded contracts with GPs, including the GMS contract.

The Competition Authority said the settlement contains a number of other provisions, which confirm the its position from the point of view of competition law enforcement, regarding the role of the IMO in any engagement with the minister and/or the HSE, as well as the limitations to that role.

Competition Authority Chairperson Isolde Goggin described the settlement as a good outcome for both patients and the State.

She said it would allow the process of reform to move ahead, while ensuring costs were not increased through anti-competitive behaviour.

IMO GP Committee Chairman Dr Ray Walley said today's settlement acknowledged the IMO's right to engage with the Minister for Health and/or the HSE in respect of the scope, content and resources allocated to publicly funded contracts for GPs.

He said it accepted that it would be the responsibility of individual members to decide whether to accept any proposal or not.