Councillors concerned over cash for rural doctors

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Councillors in North Yorkshire are calling for urgent action over rural GPs’ funding.

Action is needed to avert a funding crisis that could see some rural GP practices in the area becoming unviable – according to North Yorkshire County Council’s Scrutiny of Health Committee.

The committee’s chairman, Councillor Jim Clark, has written to NHS chiefs warning that without swift action, some communities in rural areas could be left with inadequate local health care.

Coun Clark said: “We have great concern over the long term funding of GP services in North Yorkshire, It is essential that GP practices are properly funded, particularly in rural areas where the cost of providing local access is so much higher.”

Concerns about rural provision have grown out of changes to the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) system, part of the financial framework which supports GP practices.

Many doctors have voiced fears over the changes, including one North Yorkshire GP who estimates that his practice could lose about £78,000 a year.

However, the County Council says such funding shortfalls seriously threaten the viability of practices.

Coun Clark has written to NHS England, the main body responsible for commissioning GP services, calling for urgent action to address the threat.

A spokesperson from NHS England, North Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “NHS England, North Yorkshire and the Humber is committed to making sure patients have access to high quality primary care services.

“As part of the GP contract settlement in 2013, MPIG top up payments are to be phased out over a seven year period. A national audit of practices receiving MPIG payments has been carried out and based on the calculations around how the resources will be equitably allocated it showed that of 98 outliers nationally only two practices in North Yorkshire are significantly affected. We are already working closely with those practices to help them make a smooth transition to the new funding arrangements, including reviewing the full range of services they are providing to highlight any opportunities they have to generate additional income.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “This is not an issue that specifically affects only rural practices as both rural and non-rural practices receive MPIG payments. The new arrangements will continue to take into account the unavoidable costs of providing services in rural areas.”