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RCGP calls for cash to prevent 100 GP practices closing

Phase out of MPIG must be cushioned with ‘emergency fund’

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 01 May 2014

The RCGP has called for an urgent cash injection from the government to stop around 100 GP practices from having to close because of the phase-out of the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG).

The college says phasing out the MPIG, which it calls a “key NHS funding stream” could affect a total 1,700 practices collectively looking after 12.2 m patients.

MPIG was introduced as part of the 2004 GP contract to smooth the transition to new funding arrangements.

The government has argued that MPIG funding is not weighted to reflect the demographics of a practice population, so is not an equitable way of providing funding to practices. It is phasing it out over a seven-year-period.

The RCGP said today that the government should provide an urgent injection of cash to prevent the closure of the practices most at risk, many of which serve deprived inner city or remote communities.

An “emergency stability fund” was needed, argued the college, in order to stave off the closure within months of almost 100 GP practices.

In addition, the college wanted a guarantee from the government that no practice would be shut down as a result of the phasing out of MPIG.

The college said the impact of phasing out MPIG was particularly difficult because it was taking place against the backdrop of falling funding for general practice, which now stood at an all time low of 8.39% of the total UK NHS budget.

It was seeking an immediate cash injection for the practices facing imminent threat of closure or reductions in service, and a long-term increase in general practice funding to 11% by 2017.

RCGP honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers said: “The severe underinvestment in GP services means that many practices have been relying on MPIG funding just to keep going.

“Last year, the government pumped £500m into A&E to stave off the winter crisis. A fraction of this would safeguard the future of these practices. It is vital that ministers also give a guarantee that no practices will close as a result of the phasing out of MPIG.

“Without emergency funding, up to 100 practices will be forced to close, leaving 700,000 patients without a family doctor within months.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We want to ensure that patients have access to high quality GP services, no matter where they live. The system needs to be equitable so GP practices are paid fairly according to the number of patients and the services they need.

“The MPIG was introduced in 2004 to support practices moving to a new GP contract, and was never intended to be in place for the long term. The NHS will be supporting the most affected practices to adjust as these payments are gradually phased out over seven years, and the money will be reinvested in general practice.”

Dr David Geddes, head of primary care commissioning at NHS England, said: “Redistributing this funding will mean the majority of GP practices will gain extra funding.

“Everyone should have access to high quality GP services in their area, that is why we have asked our area teams to work with practices that will be adversely affected to see how they can be supported – this is different for each practice and this work continues.”

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