In Ireland, primary care refers to all health and social care services that you can find in your community outside of hospitals. Primary care is provided mainly by general practitioners (GPs) or in community health centres in towns and villages around Ireland. Primary care services include:
- GP Service
- Community Nurse Service
- Home Care Attendant Service
- Occupational Therapy
- Social Work Service
- Speech and Language Therapy
There are 29 emergency departments (EDs) across Ireland. Some of these departments will only treat adult patients. You should attend EDs in the case of serious emergencies including accidents, injuries or in cases where your life may be threatened. EDs are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To receive treatment, you can visit the EDs directly or call 112/999 free of charge to request the Ambulance Service. When speaking to an Emergency Call Taker over the phone it is important that you remain calm and follow their instructions.
Specialist health care services will always require an appointment. Your own doctor usually must refer you to an appropriate specialist if they assess that you require further examination. Depending on the specialist you need, there may be long waiting times to visit them. If you visit a private specialist, the waiting time is usually much shorter.
You can access dental services through a private dentist. You will need to arrange an appointment yourself. If you have a valid medical card, you can access many services for free but you should always check with your dentist before receiving these services. Children aged 15 years or younger are entitled to free dental care through the HSE Dental Clinics. This service is accessed through schools.
The HSE provides a range of services for people with disabilities and those who care for them including home help, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.
The HSE also provides a full range of services aimed at women’s health which addresses pregnancy, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and many other issues.
Mental health services are also widely available through face to face contact, telephone and online services provided by the HSE. Some NGOs (such as Spirasi) offer services which works with refugees who have experienced significant mental trauma. Your doctor can refer you to these organisations if requested.