The provision of free GP care for those aged over 70 starts today. 

The new measure applies to more 35,000 people aged 70 and over who do not currently hold a medical or GP visit card.

As of yesterday evening, 8,700 people had registered.

It is the next step towards the Government's plans for universal healthcare and follows the roll-out of free GP care for all under-sixes last month.

The scheme is expected to cost between €18 and €20 million a year.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said last week that the move is an important step to universal health care and for the first time the youngest and oldest in society will be able to access GP care without being charged.

Dr Tadhg Crowley, from the Irish Medical Organisation's GP committee, has said that although the scheme is good news for the elderly, he was disappointed that those now eligible for free GP care will not have access to Allied Health Professionals such as public health nurses and physiotherapists.