Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he hopes that free GP care for certain groups will be in place by the end of this year, or early next year.

He said the first priority were those at the extremes of age - pre-school children and the over-70s.

The minister said that a contract had to be agreed with GPs.

At Cabinet today, the Government agreed a memo from the minister for the roll-out of free GP care for the under-sixes later this year, for the over-70s next year and children in secondary school in 2015.

He said he wanted to introduce free GP care in co-operation with GPs and avoid a situation where doctors were overwhelmed or under-resourced.

Minister Varadkar said it was important to take a few months to get it right.

He was speaking at the official opening of an acute medical assessment unit and MRI scanner at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.