A health minister has claimed that freezing the withdrawal of the minimum price income guarantee for all GP practices for the rest of this financial year would cost £11m, which the GPC has said is a ‘relatively small amount’ of savings compared with the problems it causes practices.
Responding to a question from Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney, health minister Dr Dan Poulter also revealed that practices that received MPIG payments were less deprived than average practices, with only 15% of them featuring in the 20% of areas identified as the most deprived in England.
But GP leaders said that the hardest hit practices served the more vulnerable communities and £11m was a ‘relatively small amount’ to keep these essential services running.
The figures have been revealed after NHS England had agreed to freeze the funding cuts for practices which stand to lose more than £3 per patient. However, the offer comes with a number of stringent terms and for two years only.
As of April this year, the Government begun phasing out the MPIG correction factor over seven years, with the funding redestributed across all practices, despite repeated warnings from GP leaders that the move would destabilise practices.
Ms Hillier had asked what what the ‘cost to the public purse’ would be if the MPIG withdrawal was frozen effective as of last month (1 August) and how many practices who received the payments were in the most deprived parts of England.
Dr Poulter said: ‘The freezing of the withdrawal of the MPIG could cost up to £11m in 2014-15. This is because the “global sum” payments – into which the reductions in MPIG are added for all practices – have already been set for the year.’
‘This estimated cost would be for 2014-15 only and assumes that any additional costs would only be for part of the year, ie from 1 August.’
However, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that this was a small price to pay to retain these essential services.
He said: ‘£11m is a relatively small amount compared to the billions spent on the rest of the NHS but is a huge amount for general practices struggling to maintain services despite repeated cost cutting.’
He added: ‘The BMA has consistently pointed out that the Government’s decision to phase out MPIG will hit a broad range of practices with challenging circumstances. As has now been confirmed by ministers, this includes hundreds of GP practices serving deprived communities and will affect thousands of vulnerable patients. There are many other types of practices that will be hit, including those in rural areas, university campuses and the commuter belt all of who provide valuable services to their local communities.
NHS England agreed to freeze the cuts for the worst-hit practices earlier this year following campaigning from practices led by the Tower Hamlets-based Jubilee Street Practice and including efforts such as Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign.