CONCERNS have been raised that government funding cuts to small GP practices could impact patients across Worcestershire.
Last year the government announced it would phase out its minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) scheme, which provides financial help to small GP practices to ensure they receive enough income to survive so their patients are able to access the services they need.
Practices across the country are set to be affected and 98 could face closure as a result, although none of these are said to be in Worcestershire.
NHS England’s director of commissioning for the county as well as Herefordshire and Arden Sue Price said the organisation would work closely with those practices which would be affected.
“NHS England is committed to making sure patients have access to high-quality GP services wherever they live and that GPs are properly funded to deliver these services,” she said.
“MPIG is not an equitable way of funding practices, which is why NHS England is supporting its phased withdrawal over the next seven years.
“We believe it is fairer to allocate funds based on the numbers of patients that practices serve and the health needs of those patients.
“We have looked very carefully at how the changes to MPIG, together with other changes to the General Medical Services contract, will impact on practices and we estimate that the majority will gain extra funding as a result.”
Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the government had “seriously misjudged” the potential impact of the changes.
“This comes at a time when GP practices are already under pressure from rising workload and declines in overall levels of funding,” he said.
“The government has not confirmed where these practices are or the extent of their financial difficulty, however some will be smaller GP practices in rural communities with comparatively small number of patients registered with them.
“These GPs provide vital services to patients in areas where accessing healthcare is already not easy because of the large distances patients have to travel to get to their local NHS services.
“If these practices were to close it could leave large geographical areas without a nearby GP practice.”
He added there was no national plan for how to tackle the problem.
“Ministers have to get a grip on this problem urgently given these funding reductions are just weeks away from being implemented,” he said.
“We need to ensure no practice closes and that there is a coordinated approach to deal with this issue.”