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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Health bosses’ fears over changes to GP funding

Cumbrian health bosses are worried the county could be badly hit by changes to funding which will see nearly 100 GP practices close.

The Government has identified 98 practices across the UK which will lose money when a minimum price strategy is phased out from next month.

The Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) meant smaller practices were guaranteed a certain level of funding, regardless of how many patients they had on their books.

The Government has not revealed which practices are at risk but the BMA has warned they are likely to be in rural areas.

Dr David Wrigley, BMA representative for Cumbria, told the News & Star that not revealing the names of the practices was “madness”.

“At the moment, we are not aware of where they are but [we believe] they will tend to be in very rural locations so it might be that quite a few of them will be in Cumbria,” he said.

“If the Government lets the practices know which ones they are, we may find out at a later date.”

The changes to the funding will come into effect from April and guarantee a minimum level of funding, regardless of the number of patients.

Dr Wrigley said the surgeries at risk of losing “substantial” funding could have their long-term survival in put in question.

“Hundreds more will be affected,” he said. “This could leave large areas without a nearby GP, while also affecting the level of care that patients receive.”

The BMA has already been contacted by one GP in south Cumbria who is concerned that her practice is to lose a third of its core funding. “There are questions around whether the surgery can survive and most importantly whether it can keep offering the care that local patients deserve,” he said.

“With these funding changes just weeks away from being applied ministers must get a grip on this problem. We need to make sure that practices supplying vital services for local people aren’t forced to close and are still able to supply a robust and reliable service for patients.”

The Government has decided to phase out the MPIG over a seven-year period, beginning in April.

NHS England published an anonymous list of 98 practices that could lose more than £3 per patient per year. Some practices on the list will lose more than £100 per patient per year, while others will lose £20 or £30 per patient.

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