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MP proposes bill to protect rural GP practices

An MP has proposed a bill in the House of Commons which aims to create a ‘strategic fund’ for small GP practices in rural areas in a bid to combat the potential impact of recent funding cuts.

Liberal Democrats president and South Lakes MP Tim Farron outlined the General Practitioner Surgeries (Rural Areas) 2014-15 Bill yesterday, which would give smaller rural GP surgeries access to financial support to deal with funding cuts due to the removal of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG).

Mr Farron’s constituency includes two remote rural communities in the Lake District and contains the Hawkshead Medical Practice, which has written to health minister Earl Howe raising the possibility of closure due to cuts in MPIG.

The announcement of the proposed bill represents a continuation of Mr Farron’s efforts to increase funding support for GP practices, after he tabled a motion earlier this year backing the BMA’s ‘Your GP Cares’ campaign and called for ‘immediate and sustained investment in GP care.’

Mr Farron also argued earlier in the year for a central fund to protect at-risk practices, adding that the removal of MPIG is the ‘ultimate one-size-fits-all policy, which treats small rural practices the same as large urban ones.’

The MP said he hopes the bill can ‘safeguard our GP practices’. He added: ‘In the last couple of years we have worked hard to secure major investment for surgeries throughout South Lakeland. Many of the practices now hold clinics and do minor surgery. I hope that this bill I have proposed will be supported by the Government and we can safeguard our GP practices.

‘I will keep fighting as hard as I can to defend our rural GP practices – they are at the heart of communities like Hawkshead and Coniston.’

The rural GP practice funding bill is expected to have its second reading debate in January next year.

The move comes after Pulse recently launched its Stop Practice Closures campaign, and subsequently wrote to 200 MPs calling for urgent action to prevent further GP practice closures.

Meanwhile, health secretary Jeremy Hunt recently told Pulse that he wanted to find a ‘fair way of funding general practice’ as he pledged his support for the aims of the Stop Practice Closures campaign.