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GPs go forth

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.

Related images

  • Andy Burnham MP 2014

Readers' comments (23)

  • Burnham at least tries to engage the profession but I suspect economic prioirties may override any good behaviour.

    What General practice needs is a bigger slice of the pie to attract more graduates and temper the workload of the currrent staff. It also just needs stability, something that the political system in the UK is unable to provide.

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  • And another lot of politicians said there wouldnt be any top down reorganisation of the NHS. Dont believe any of them.

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  • when a politician opens his mouth he is lying. Don't believe a word of this, it will go along the lines of no increase in university fees. Its been heard to many times and at the end of the day, all politicians want to pay GP's peanuts, being aware more likely as time goes on, all they will get is monkeys (and noctors).

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  • Vinci Ho

    The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils.

    You see , George , if you are still alive today , you should be a Rock n' Roll star👍

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  • Do Andy Burnham's comments actually so that he would stop the PMS reviews?

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  • agree with 15 September 2014 1:24pm ...

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  • Andy Burnham is a typical (Labour) politician - promise to reverse whatever the previous government did that you didn't like.
    Shame that every Labour Government seems to leave us (all) with a massive deficit!

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    History lesson. The Labour Party was formed in 1920. Scotland has always had a majority of Labour MPs. Only in 1997 did England have a majority of Labour MPs and Blair won by a landslide. Currently there are again more Labour MPs in Scotland which means Conservative MPs in England outnumber Labour. Once Scotland goes independent and it will, Labour may never win a general election again. All the Tories have to do is ensure a postponement of the general election until 2016 so Scottish Labour MPs may not vote in Parliament once Scottish independence begins.

    In other words, the NHS will no longer be a free at point of access in the context of a national recession with conservative Tories in power as they want people to assume responsibility and chip in and pay for healthcare to save England as it cannot be fully public funded when demand is limitless. No more left wing socialist Labour nanny state suggesting taxpayers can continue to pay to provide healthcare for everyone, including the EU! Thatcher strongly advocated NOT joining the EU and I wholeheartedly agree with this. We cannot be a nanny for 27 other EU countries as well.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    Let Labour run the NHS in Scotland. One only has to look at Labour run NHS in Wales to see how a post world war II model of healthcare cannot translate in a modern consumerist world with endless demand from patients and limited funding and a left wing party philosophy.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    Correction, the Labour party was formed in 1918 after world war I. We are not in a post war crisis with national poverty. Time for the public to assume responsibility for their health. The Conservative party have been around since the 18th century with a strong work ethic.

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