Country doctors could 'disappear' from rural communities as government reduces funding and workloads increase

Scrapping of key funding guarantee threatens up to 80 'small GP surgeries'

Health Reporter

Country doctors could “disappear” from rural communities within the next few years, MPs and clinicians have warned, thanks to a perfect storm of government cuts and mounting workloads.

As many as 80 “essential small GP surgeries” are under threat after the Government announced plans to scrap a key funding guarantee that rural surgeries have depended upon for the past decade.

Small rural surgeries, often manned by only one or two doctors covering large areas, will be hit by the withdrawal of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG), from April next year.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP, whose Lake District constituency contains two under threat practices, said that patients in his area would be left having to take a ferry, or cross a mountain range just to see their doctor.

“Across the country there are a maximum of about 80 rural, strategically essential small GP surgeries that will be rendered either unsustainable or in a very difficult position by the slow change in the funding set-up for GPs…We quickly need a solution that keeps these places open,” Mr Farron told The Independent

“We had a public meeting in the village of Coniston last week – 500 people turned up out of a patient list of barely one thousand – that’s the level of concern.”

The MPIG was set up to ensure that smaller practices still received a sustainable income after changes to the GP contract in 2004. However, NHS England is phasing out the payments which they say have led to some practices unfairly getting more funding than others.

The warning over country doctors came as the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said that “single-handed practices” in both rural communities and cities were struggling to survive the bureaucratic demands of the modern NHS.

“The burden of regulation and inspection on what amounts to a very small business – smaller than your corner-shop – is overwhelming,” Dr Gerada told The Independent. “Smaller practices do really well for patients.  I think they provide the kind of traditional general practice that is rapidly disappearing. But they are a casualty of the rise of the bureaucratic burden put upon GPs.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said that NHS England was “currently determining the best way to approach” MPIG payments.

An NHS England spokesperson said. “The current minimum practice income guarantee system is unfair and needs to be changed. This is not about taking money away from GP services but distributing it more fairly and ensuring it is properly matched to patient needs. We are phasing the changes over a seven year period to ensure stability.”

Case study: 'There’s a perfect storm brewing for us'

 

Dr Julian Fester, runs a small surgery in Egton, North Yorkshire, with one other doctor

“Without small rural practices doctors would be less accessible, patients would have to travel further.

Some of my patients do a 30-mile round trip to come and see me, which is no easy thing particularly in the winter. I know most of my patients by first name and by sight.

There’s a perfect storm brewing for us. Reduced funding, increased workloads, and unfortunately it does mean that patients are getting squeezed in the middle.

In the 2004 contract there was a shortfall in funding for lots of practices. It meant that smaller rural practices were given a small top-up payment called the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG).

The Government has now decided to dispense with the MPIG. This is a quarter of our practice income. In a two-man practice that is going to be devastating.

We are having to think about merging with other practices but that could result in reduced patient access to services and reduced availability of doctors.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Creative Web and UI Designer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced creative web and...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is now ...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

    £22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

    Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

    £100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral