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At-risk practices across England to be given two-year funding reprieve by NHS managers

Exclusive Practices across England that have been particularly badly hit by the changes to the minimum practice income guarantee are to be given a two-year reprieve by local area teams, NHS England has told Pulse.

Earlier today, NHS England’s London area team announced that it was going to delay the withdrawal of MPIG for two years for the worst hit practices, following a campaign by practices in east London, led by the Jubilee Street Practice, who highlighted the possibility of closures

NHS England has confirmed to Pulse that this offer will be made by all local area teams to the practices identified as standing to lose the most if the plans to remove the whole of the funding over seven years, introduced as part of the contract imposition in 2013/14, were to go ahead.

Pulse had revealed that no local area team had committed any funding to practices in danger of closure, but the move by London – which is to be followed by other local area teams – reverses this policy.

GPs have however warned that NHS England will be carefully examining practice income before deciding on whether a practice will receive funding, and that the two-year reprieve remains a ‘sticking plaster’ to the main problem.

It comes as Pulse has launched its campaign to Stop Practice Closures after revealing that more than 100 practices across the UK had either closed or were actively considering closing, including as a result of the MPIG changes.

The statement from NHS England (London) said: ‘General practice is the bedrock of the NHS and has served patients well since its foundation, but we understand the pressures it faces in a growing and changing capital.’

‘We have today committed to providing extra financial support in 2014/15 and 2015/16 to a small number of GP practices in London that serve patients in more deprived areas and which are significantly affected by recent changes to the GP funding system.’

‘At the same time, we are working with leading GPs on a major programme to transform primary care services to better meet the needs of 21st century London.’

It added that the funding will be released to the practices – which are among the 98 identified by NHS England as those who stand to lose the most from the changes – in the autumn.

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An NHS England spokesperson said that outlier practices serving deprived areas across England will be given the same or similar offer.

The spokesperson said: ‘Other area teams will be making a similar offer, so it will go out widely but they have got to meet the criteria [highlighted in the London offer].’

‘But it will be happening, it won’t happen now but it follows on that we will make those announcements in due course.’

‘Other area teams will be making a similar offer, or the same offer, if they [practices] meet the criteria.’

Virginia Patania, the practice manager at the Jubilee Street Practice, told Pulse that the practice is one of those that stands to benefit from the changes, but added that they still had concerns.

She said: ‘We appreciate NHS England’s efforts to re-align GP funding of deprived practices to their income prior to the new contractual changes.’

However, she pointed out that the package ‘does not unfortunately, outline the value of the package offered’. The practice is concerned that NHS England’s calculations will not match those of the practices.

Ms Patania also said that this funding package does not tackle the long-term problems.

She said: ‘The loss we incur will take place over the next seven years. This package will cover only the first two of these. With the losses getting worse year on year, we must have reassurance around the ongoing commitment to buffer these losses, as the funding support seems to expire once the losses become steeper.’

GPC deputy chair, Dr Richard Vautrey, told Pulse that NHS England was recognising that it’s funding cuts were having a ‘damaging’ impact on patients and practices, but said the small scale scheme scheme was just a ‘sticking plaster’.

He told Pulse: ‘I think while it’s welcome respite for those practices, it is only a short-term sticking plaster when what we really need is real and sustained investment to level up the funding for all practices. Not just a very small number who have been identified.’

‘I think the other thing to say is, this is just the first sign of NHS England actually acknowledging that their policy of imposing the damaging MPIG changes has actually harmed practices and patient services.’