New contracts for family doctors have been announced today.

The agreement between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Department of Health will see a €210 million investment in General Practice over the next four years.

This is a 40% increase on the funding currently available.

Announcing the new contract today, Minister for Health Simon Harris described it as a "landmark" agreement, which will "help transform and reform the Irish health service".

He said the funding will see a lot of fees restored to GPs following cuts during the economic downturn, and that in return, GPs have agreed to take part in new measures to reform and modernise the service.

€80 million will be available for the management of chronic diseases like diabetes and COPD through family doctors. This will benefit more than 400 thousand patients.

The Government also signalled its intention today to roll out the Free GP service to children up to 12 years of age on a phased basis.

This would initially be extended to Under 8s in the summer of 2020, followed by Under 10s in 2021 and finally Under 12s in 2022.

However, funding for this is not included in the €210 million agreement with the Irish Medical Organisation.

The IMO has agreed, in principle, to this change, however it says the extension to free GP care "will require a new strand of negotiations on the resourcing and contractual commitments to deliver this service".

The Union which represents nearly 1,500 members nationwide, said that "importantly, it will be for individual GPs to opt-in to deliver this service".

Minister Harris said that while legislation would be needed and fees still have to be negotiated, it was "clear the Government is setting out a policy intent".

Funding for GPs in rural areas and disadvantaged areas will also be provided for in the revised deal, and new modernisation measures in e-health, medicines management and electronic prescribing will be rolled out.

The GP contract agreement will be put to a ballot of GP members of the IMO in the coming weeks, with a result expected at the end of May. 

The HSE welcomed the agreement.

Anne O'Connor, Interim Director General of the HSE, said the deal gives four-year funding clarity and certainty for general practice, as well as providing dedicated support for people with chronic illnesses.

She said it would also provide opportunities for increased use of technology and significantly improve the safe prescribing of medication.