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A great day for GP power, but the war continues

It may only be partial – but it is a victory for the little man all the same. The two-year MPIG reprieve that was won by GPs in London that will be rolled out across England marks a major concession from NHS England.

But it is only a sticking plaster. We still have no details about how much funding will be given back to practices, who may be eligible for the reprieve or whether it will simply cram seven years’ worth of cuts to MPIG into five. But that all said, it is a change in tone won through some ingenious campaigning from the 30 or so practices in east London and their ‘Save Our Surgeries’campaign.

I would love to chalk this up as a victory for our own ‘Stop Practice Closures’ campaign, but the truth is that these GPs and their supporters organised marches, made national headlines and ended up taking their petition up to the steps of 10 Downing Street. They have shown a remarkable ability to mobilise their patients and illustrate that even good practices that achieving all their targets are facing oblivion.

I have been told privately that their campaign really needled mandarins inside NHS England and was heard up to the highest levels in Government. They deserve recognition for this.

They proved that for them MPIG is not just a payment to supplement their take-home income, it is vital additional funding to pay for the additional costs of working in a deprived area – such as paying for staff to interpret for patients who have English as their second language or signposting patients to access other social or community services that may help them.

And it was a hard-won concession – just two months ago primary care chief Dr David Geddes was telling Pulse that NHS England could not guarantee any support for MPIG-reliant practices.

All this was achieved with relatively little support from anyone – including the RCGP and the BMA, who caught up in the end, but were intially left scrambling to catch up with the impact caused by the campaign.

But this remains one small victory in a much bigger fight. MPIG is one of a myriad of problems that are facing practices across the country and is pushing scores to the brink of closure. The ongoing PMS reviews, dilapidated premises, the GP recruitment crisis, the overly bureaucratic burdens of CQC requirements… I could go on. Practices facing these issues also require emergency assistance so they are able to figure out a way to restructure and protect their patients from imminent closure, as we are calling for in our campaign.

We are steadily collecting signatures for our petition – but please do advertise this to your patients. (One GP even said to me that he would be adding a question asking his patients to sign Pulse’s petition as part of his second compulsory question in the Friends and Family test. I am not suggesting you do this, but any help you can offer to publicise this would be gratefully received.)

Also look out for the next issue of Pulse as there will be some materials to help with your fight to keep your practice going, specially authored by one of the GPs in Tower Hamlets. It is a great day for GP power – but there is much more to do.

Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse