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Suffolk: Rural communities could lose vital GP services as NHS England phases out payments to smaller doctors’ surgeries

PUBLISHED: 10:54 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:55 03 March 2014

Minimum income payments being phased out

Minimum income payments being phased out

Changes to government payments to small GP practices could lead to some rural areas losing vital services, the British Medical Association has warned.

NHS England is phasing out the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) paid to smaller GP practices from April this year.

The scheme was introduced to ensure that small practices which do not earn as much per person as some larger surgeries in towns and cities were still able to offer a wide range of health services.

Dr Ian Hume is a GP at a practice at Diss and is the BMA’s spokesman for GP services in Suffolk and Norfolk. He said: “There will be winners and losers as a result of this change.

“But there could be a serious reduction for some rural practices over the seven years that the guarantee will be phased out.”

NHS England estimates that 98 practices across the country could lose so much funding that their survival could be in doubt over the change.

Dr Hume’s own practice will be affected by the change. He said: “My own practice will see a drop in funding, along with the surrounding six smaller village practices, which will see a reduction in their resources for direct patient care.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said the guarantee was being phased out to ensure a fair distribution of money.

She said: “NHS England is committed to making sure patients have access to high-quality GP services wherever they live and the GPs are properly funded to deliver these services. MPIG is not an equitable way of funding practices, which is why we are supporting its phased withdrawal.

“We believe it is fairer to allocate funds based on the numbers of patients practices serve and the health needs of those patients.

“We have looked very carefully at how the changes to MPIG, together with other changes to the General Medical Service contract, will impact on practices and we estimate that the majority will gain extra funding as a result.

“We also know that some practices will lose funding and we have asked our area teams to work with them to see how they can be supported.”

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