As few as one in three doctors in the Limerick area have signed the new contracts which will provide free GP care to children under the age of six.

The figure for the region is considerably lower than the 61% of GPs who have signed up nationally.

Only a handful of areas in the country had a lower take up than Limerick, most notably south Tipperary which at the weekend was below 10%

Online registration for parents with children under 6 is now open for the scheme, which gets up and running on July 1st and will see free GP care for all under 6s regardless of their parents’ income.

Over a quarter of a million children countrywide are set to benefit from the scheme, which is being resisted by some doctors who cite lack of resources to deal with the increased workload.

The HSE is optimistic that most GPs will sign up to the scheme, with an increase of 10% in the number signing contracts recorded in the last couple of days.