Up to one in ten practices in the most rural areas in England will have to close, says a rural charity that has launched a campaign highlighting the ‘hardship’ and potential isolation that practice closures will cause large numbers of elderly and vulnerable patients.
Action within Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which represent England’s 38 rural community councils, is calling on all political parties to pledge to reverse MPIG cuts in their election manifestoes.
It comes as a practice in Sheffield has launched a petition urging NHS England and the Government to halt the withdrawal of MPIG.
ACRE’s head of rural insight Nick Chase said it was calling on the next Government to reinstate MPIG for rural surgeries.
He added: ‘A survey of our Network in 2014 showed that the withdrawal of MPIG would hit rural GPs hard. For instance, our ACRE Network member in Devon reported that at least 10% of rural surgeries faced closure and in Cornwall, 20% would lose significant income if these changes went ahead.
‘The loss of any surgery in an isolated rural area will cause hardship to elderly and vulnerable residents.’
The charity said that a quarter of England’s over 65s live in rural areas, and the number is set to double in the next 20 years, so the loss of local surgeries will be felt acutely – particularly as 35% of rural pensioner households have no access to a car.
Meanwhile, a GP practice in Sheffield threatened with closure is petitioning NHS England and the Government to halt the withdrawal of MPIG.
Although inspired by the practice’s own dire position, the petition aimed at health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England’s head of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes is targeting a universal halt across England to all withdrawal of MPIG subsidies, because it is typically affecting practices serving populations that are disadvantaged or have complex health needs.
As previously reported by Pulse, the Devonshire Green & Hanover Medical Centres in Sheffield has launched the campaign after calculating it is due to lose as much as £140,000 due to its large proportion of patients with mental health problems and patients who often don’t speak English as a first language.
The petition says: ‘The withdrawal of MPIG is threatening many GP surgeries with bankruptcy and closure, potentially affecting 700,000 patients. Typically the worst affected practices are those serving complex and needy or disadvantaged populations. The withdrawal of MPIG must be halted now to prevent GP surgery closures and allow a fair alternative to be developed.’
The petition comes as the Jubilee Street Practice in east London continues to campaign for NHS England to save practices in deprived areas, most recently highlighting a potential flaw in the calculations it used when deciding which practices may require further support.
Pulse is running its own campaign to Stop Practice Closures, calling on the Government to implement emergency support for those at risk of closure and to overhaul funding and workforce strategies to allow stable long-term growth.