The Department of Health has said no decision has been taken on whether there will be a nominal fee for a GP consultation as part of the planned roll-out of universal free GP care under the Programme for Government.

The department said talks on the GP service contract are continuing with the Irish Medical Organisation.

It said that if a fee is introduced it would be minimal.

A spokesperson for Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the priority is to ensure that anyone with health concerns can access GP services and that the under-sixes and over-70s have particular needs.

"We do not want services to be overwhelmed and we don't want people with legitimate concerns to find that GP services are unnecessarily busy. That may require a very modest charge, as used in other countries," the spokesman said.

He said the possibility of a nominal fee was first suggested by Minister Alex White and others.

The Programme for Government promises free GP care for all by 2016, introduced on a phased basis.

The restatement of Government priorities since the reshuffle proposes that free GP care for the under-sixes comes in this year.

Next year would see it extended to the over 70s and primary school children.

It would be introduced for secondary school children in 2016. It remains unclear when it would then be extended to the age group in the middle.