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Practices get a week to justify MPIG correction factor

By Steve Nowottny

Practices have been given until just next week to explain why they need their correction factor payments as ministers step up moves to get rid of the MPIG.

NHS Employers and the GPC have written to SHAs and LMCs asking them to identify any ‘historic reasons' why some practices receive particularly large correction factors.

The survey comes as negotiators look for a way of agreeing to a phase-out of the MPIG without hitting practices that have received high payments for historical reasons, such as provision of extra services.

But LMC secretaries expressed alarm at the ‘genuinely perplexing' timescale imposed on the survey, with the Department of Health demanding its return by the middle of next week.

The GPC is concerned about the potential impact of the differential uplift to the GMS contract agreed for 2009/10 as an initial step towards scrapping the MPIG.

In a joint letter, the GPC and NHS Employers insisted the differential uplift would go ahead for 2009-10.

But they warned: ‘There is a concern where extra or local essential services have resulted in a high correction factor, application of a differential uplift approach is possibly unfair.'

‘Understanding the historic reasons behind these situations will therefore help inform discussion between NHS Employers and the GPC.'

But the original letter announcing the survey was only sent out on 9 February – and some LMCs contacted by Pulse this week were still unaware of its existence.

Dr Michelle Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said LMCs were scrambling to liaise with PCTs and clarify exactly what to ask practices.

‘It's a tall order – but I think we want this to happen,' she said.

‘There is always going to be a fear this Government will renege on an agreement and our negotiators need to work hard to make sure it doesn't reach reality.'

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the survey ‘won't be scientific', but would help inform negotiations about the next stage of the MPIG phase out.

He said: ‘It's about trying to assess current services and funding and to see whether we can devise arrangements that avoid practices being effectively frozen for the next few years.'

But the survey is likely to provoke intense debate at the GPC meeting later this week, with some members warning the survey could have ‘huge implications.'

Dr Kailash Chand, a GPC member and GP in Ashton-under-Lyne: ‘There is a danger in if the GPC gets involved, grassroots GPs would wonder: are we joining hands with them in destabilising practices?'

Andrew Clapperton, Head of Primary Care Workforce & Contracting at NHS Employers, said: ‘As part of the agreement on changes to the GMS contract for 2009/10 NHS Employers and the GPC agreed to ‘work jointly in examining other ways to resolve the issue of those practices who remain heavily reliant on correction factor payments'. To this end an exercise is now under way to gather robust data on the reasons why some practices receive a higher level of income protection under MPIG.'

‘This exercise simply aims to get more information and will focus on around 500 GMS practices that receive the highest level of income protection under MPIG. This information will then be used to inform any next steps, including timescales, and future discussions with the GPC.'

Dr Michelle Drage: always a fear Government will renege on agreement Dr Michelle Drage: always a fear Government will renege on agreement

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