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Cameron promises to investigate impact of MPIG cuts in rural areas

The Government’s planned phase out of MPIG has been plunged into fresh doubt after Prime Minister David Cameron said he will investigate the effect of the policy on rural areas.

In Parliament yesterday, Conservative MP for Ribble Valley Nigel Evans called for Mr Cameron to investigate the impact of the policy on local patients, highlighting that a GP practice in his constituency is facing closure when the income guarantee payments are withdrawn.

Mr Evans said: ‘With the disappearance of the minimum practice income guarantee, many doctors’ surgeries serving remote rural areas such as the one in Slaidburn in my constituency face death not by a thousand cuts, but perhaps by one cut.’

‘They serve many elderly residents and a number of children who do not have access to great public transport to go into neighbouring Clitheroe. Will the prime minister investigate this issue and ensure that my constituents will not be isolated and will continue to receive the excellent service that they do now from their doctors’ surgery?’

Responding, Mr Cameron said that he himself represents a rural area where there are small GP practices. He added: ‘I will look carefully at the case the hon. Gentleman makes. I, too, represent a large rural constituency where there are still small practices. It is the case, however, that many more doctors’ surgeries are offering many more services with practice nurses and other assistance given to patients.’

‘We want to see that growing, not least to make sure that people can go to GP surgeries rather than accident and emergency units if it is a GP that they need, but I will look at the specific point that he makes.’

Practices in England still do receive MPIG payments but the Government is formally launching a seven-year phase out of the payments from April 2014, after rubber-stamping the decision in the GP contract imposition for 2013/14.

In March, the Government confirmed there were around 100 practices in England that were ‘heavily reliant’ on MPIG, ruling out any special measures to protect them. However, in August these practices were thrown a lifeline when NHS England opened up to the possibility of negotiating special contract terms for ‘outlier’ practices.

After Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Evans said: ‘I am pleased that the prime minister said that he would look carefully at this important issue and I will be following that up with his office. I will also be meeting with Ros Roughton, head of GP commissioning at NHS England, later this month along with representatives from the practice.’

‘I am hopeful that we will find a solution that means that the surgery will stay open serving the community and residents and I will continue to campaign with all relevant people in order to achieve that outcome.’