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Tim presses NHS England for action to deal with rural GP funding

March 18, 2014 10:47 AM

Tim in WestminsterIn the latest stage of his campaign to protect rural GP surgeries, local MP Tim Farron has spoken with senior managers at NHS England. Tim called for a 'Strategic Small Surgeries Fund' to be created to help practices like Hawkshead and Coniston bridge the funding gap.

Tim spoke to Dr David Geddes, NHS England's Head of Primary Care Commissioning and pressed for help for Coniston and Hawkshead's GP practices.

A compensation payment for surgeries with low footfall, called MPIG, is due to be phased out from this year, prompting an outcry that practices in rural areas will be forced to close.

The so-called Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) is being ditched in a move that local politicians and campaigners have claimed is further undermining key services in countryside communities. Recently South Lakeland District Council and Yorkshire Dales National Park both agreed to lobby for the MPIG changes to be looked at again. Some practices now face a 35% cut in funding.

Whilst larger practices will be able to absorb the additional work load, smaller surgeries in the rural areas of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire will suffer a real risk of closure under the pressure. Along with poor public transport links and difficult winter weather conditions in these rural areas, this would be devastating for people needing emergency medical care. Tim has called for changes to the policy without delay.

Tim specifically asked whether there might be a 'Strategic Small Surgeries Fund'- NHS England said that this was not impossible but that rather than a block grant this might be more likely to come in the form of funding tied to an identifiable, enhanced service e.g. setting up a network of community nurses.

Tim said: "In the last couple of years we have worked hard to secure major investment for surgeries throughout South Lakeland. Many of the practices now hold clinics and do minor surgery. I hope that bidding for this debate will keep this issue high up on the agenda.

"I will keep fighting as hard as I can to defend our rural GP practices - they are at the heart of communities like Hawkshead and Coniston."