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Independents' Day

Burnham: Labour would halt practice funding cuts

Exclusive The Labour Party will halt the withdrawal of MPIG and the sweeping PMS clawbacks affecting GPs if it wins the next general election, Pulse can reveal.

The promise was made for the first time by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, the Labour MP for Leigh, in an exclusive interview with Pulse as he warned that the funding cuts could have ‘dire consequences for certain practices’.

Mr Burnham, who was health secretary from 2009 to 2010, was forceful in his critique of the Government’s handling of the removal of the MPIG saying that if it could be phased out it had to be done in a way where it did not, as presently, threaten the viability of practices.

He said: ‘I find it is another one of these things that this Government has done which is a completely false economy. You take that money out of there, to spend a lot more money dealing with the consequences of a so-called saving.’

He added: ‘I’ll be honest with you, when I was a minister I used to look at the GP contract and say “ooh, that’s a lot of money on that MPIG, is that necessary?” and I was always warned by civil servants to be very careful, maybe it can be progressively phased out, but abrupt changes with MPIG will have very significant consequences for practices in certain localities.’

Asked whether this meant he would halt the withdrawal should Labour take over Government from next May, he hesitated briefly but then answered: ‘Well, yes is the answer. It is not for me to start writing the detail of spending policies right now and I have to look at exactly what I inherit, but I will halt the situation where any practice is on the brink of closure.’

‘If MPIG can be phased out eventually it has to be done over a longer period of time to the point where no practice has its viability threatened as far as I’m concerned.’

‘The MPIG changes, you asked me directly, so yes, it doesn’t make sense to do what they are doing on the timetable they are doing it, it really doesn’t.’

NHS England has agreed to freeze the funding cuts for MPIG practices which stand to lose more than £3 per patient. However, the offer comes with a number of stringent terms and for two years only.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter claimed last week that freezing the withdrawal of the MPIG for all GP practices for the rest of this financial year would cost £11m, which the GPC has said is a ‘relatively small amount’ of savings compared with the problems it causes practices.

Asked whether his promise applied also to PMS reviews, Mr Burnham added: ‘Yeah well that too. They were there for good reasons and I can understand NHS England sitting there saying “well we’re paying this for this one and this for that one” but there may be a bloody good reason why we are having to pay more, and people need to remember the history of how did we get to this situation. But just to kind of chop it back down to a [level], you might find that that has a very dire consequence for certain practices.’

Asked whether he welcomed Mr Burnham’s comments, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey gave a cautious response.

He said: ‘This is only good news if it actually happens - if he is elected and implements that policy - but it is not just about halting the withdrawal, we need to see real investment into general practice across the board. There are many practices who haven’t got MPIGs, or haven’t got PMS funding, who have been struggling quite significantly. So it isn’t just those practices that are being affected by the losses, it is the many practices which don’t have that funding in the first place who are significantly struggling too.’

‘Until Andy Burnham, or Jeremy Hunt, or whoever is going to be health secretary, recognises that there is a fundamental need to increase the investment in general practice to at least 11% of the NHS spend, and if possible more than that, then we are not going to see a change to what is happening at the moment.’

Pulse reported last week that Cambridgeshire LMC has become the first in England to reject the offer made by NHS England to mitigate the effects of the withdrawal of MPIG saying the process for supporting practices that were most under threat was ‘unreasonable on a number of grounds’ and ‘unfit for purpose’ in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere.

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  • Andy Burnham MP 2014
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Readers' comments (23)

  • I have to say that I do respect Burnham, he is somebody that the profession can deal with (unlike Hunt who is disingenuous and thuggish-in my opinion).

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  • Yes, I remember with great fondness how supportive the last govt was of primary care and how sorry we all were when they lost office. Don't kid yourselves - policy will continue unabated whoever forms the next administration. They want us to die!

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  • I bet Burnham was not authorised to say this and it will be withdrawn when Ed Balls finds out.

    Having said that Labour is historically more generous to primary care than the Tories

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  • Politician promises "Jam Tomorrow if you vote for me" (somehow overlooking his part in the current parlous state of the NHS).

    Shock news!

    Don't trust this man. He is every bit as bad as Hunt.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    The mathematics are quite stark.
    MPIG was there "in perpetuity" to prevent practices with low Carr-Hill factors having to close. The work of general practice is much more subtle than any algorithm of mortality, morbidity and age-sex spread.
    The government has removed the in perpetuity promise and has reneged on a fairly negotiated pension deal agreed with the profession and imposed a punitive deal which specifically disadvantages principals in general practice. They then wonder why those who can retire early do retire early in the face of increasing pension contributions and declining income. It is not motivating to have a pay cut of 20% in cash terms and be expected to work ever harder while being constantly criticised for failure to diagnose cancers at the first visit (inter alia).
    The bottom line is that if you cut resources from 11% of the NHS spend to 7.5% of the NHS spend and expect ever better service, you will be disappointed.
    So - a message to all politicians as the conference season approaches:
    *Stop fiddling round the edges.
    *Fund general practice properly.
    *Make GPs feel valued as the best-value and highest skilled generalists in the world.
    Then you can start moving services into "the community" whatever that is and gain overall saving in NHS costs.

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  • I cannot recall a Health Minister in living memory "as bad as Hunt"....

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  • I do not doubt the sincerity of the personal statement, nor the clear understanding of pressures in primary care-Andy Burnham has visiting many CCG's including my own,
    However this is " off the hoof" and not Labour Party policy.
    The temptation for the Labour executive ifit achieved power is to leave it as a perfect exemplar of " damaging coalition cuts"
    whilst simultaneously benefititing from the treasurey savings.
    Ultimately "Money talks" and escalating public demand has signed medicaly led primary cares death knell at the treasurey.

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  • Anon 11.09
    Err...Lansley? NHS England, CCGs, CSUs and the fragmentation of public health are his legacy.

    The humiliation of his reforms was so complete he's not only no longer a minister, but is standing down from being an MP at the next election. Speaks volumes about how long his legacy will last.

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  • yes Lansley was bad....but Hunt's repeated incitement to hatred of GPs by his "media chums" and his thuggish "blame game" politics is, in my opinion so extreme and malicious that it must be regarded as a "moral crime"-above and beyond any previous actions taken.

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  • What Peter Swinyard said.

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