Exclusive: MPIG losers face takeover by private companies

Commercial healthcare firms are looking to take over GP practices forced to close by funding cuts.

A senior GP with links to the Conservative party and the commercial healthcare sector said the threat of closures from MPIG withdrawal and other recent funding changes was an ‘opportunity’ for commercial providers and GPs.

The comments came after Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham stepped into the row over MPIG withdrawal, promising to end GP funding cuts and calling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to find a solution for practices threatened with closure.

Protect practices

Speaking at the 2014 LMCs conference in York last week, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul identified protecting practices hit hardest by removal of MPIG support as an ‘immediate priority’.

NHS England had ‘flagrantly reneged on its assurance of protection for outlying practices’, he told LMCs.

Mr Burnham said the budget for general practice had been ‘raided’, threatening standards of care

‘Cuts on the scale we are seeing have to stop,’ he said. Mr Burnham was visiting Jubilee Street Practice in east London, which has said it will close in October unless a solution is found to practice funding losses worth £903,000 over seven years.

Strategic clinical director at One Medical Care and vice-chairman of Conservative Health Dr Paul Charlson told GP that while it was ‘regrettable and very sad’, practices were likely to close because NHS England could struggle financially to bail them out.

‘It’s a possibility that alternative providers will come in and run the practices,’ he said.

Private commercial providers ‘definitely’ viewed possible closures of practices as an opportunity, Dr Charlson added. ‘One Medical Care is looking at acquiring practices in London and the north [of England] at the moment,’ he added.

‘We want to acquire practices that we can bring into our group and develop and support. We are looking for practices to manage and develop.’

Earlier this month, senior east London GPs warned that government policy was forcing practices to close, to bring in alternative providers.

Privatisation fears

At a meeting called by Jubilee Street Practice partners, Tower Hamlets GP and health campaigner Dr Kambiz Boomla said destabilisation was deliberate government policy to privatise services.

‘The danger is, if we keep quiet and practices fold, that would trigger an NHS England opportunity to tender, to see which other private providers could come and take us over.’

Tower Hamlets LMC chairman Dr Sella Shanmugadasan agreed.

Dr Charlson disagreed there was a policy, arguing MPIG had always been intended as a temporary measure. He called for longer-term APMS contracts to attract providers to ‘rescue’ practices which ‘may be not the most financially brilliant’. 

In its Call to Action on General Practice: Phase One Report in March, NHS England said it would use procurement processes to bring in new providers when practices close, and develop longer-term APMS contracts to encourage new providers.

A spokesman for NHS England in London said: ‘In the event of a closure, our priority is ensuring patients continue to receive high quality care. We have contingency plans.’

GP understands NHS England London region is preparing to announce proposals to help practices by the end of May. An NHS England national spokesman added MPIG was being phased out because it ‘takes money from GP practices with the heaviest workloads and sickest patients’.

Letter from GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul

To NHS chief executive Simon Stevens

I am writing to express my concern at NHS England’s handling of the process for phasing out MPIG correction factor payments to GP practices.

We warned about the inaction that would result from NHS England leaving decisions about how to deal with adversely affected practices to area teams. We have been contacted by a number of practices who have been informed by their area teams that they are not able to provide support, either due to funding problems or a lack of central direction.

If this situation is allowed to continue, there will be a real and imminent threat to services provided to patients, with some practices at risk of closure.

Free GMS financial forecast 2014/21

GPonline.com's sister website Medeconomics has teamed up with specialist medical accountants Ramsay Brown & Partners to provide all subscribers with a forecast of their practice's financial performance as the MPIG is phased out over the next seven years.

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