£120m bailout fund can help struggling GP practices across England, campaigners say

A bailout deal that saved 10 London practices from closure should be offered to practices across England, GP campaigners have said.

Funding: bailout fund can help practices across England
Funding: bailout fund can help practices across England

Practices under threat of closure due to MPIG correction factor cuts and other funding changes in the London borough of Tower Hamlets won their year-long battle for financial support last month when NHS England agreed to hand over new funding to the CCG.

Campaigners say 10 struggling practices have now received an offer of funding and have been saved from closure.

As exclusively revealed by GPonline last month, the new funding came from a little-known £100m headroom fund held by NHS England teams.

Tower Hamlets CCG has made its share of the fund - worth £400,000 - available to all GMS practices facing losses from the 2014 contract changes to support additional workload. Practices in the deprived borough were particularly badly affected by the loss of MPIG because of the failure of core funding to recognise adequately the additional workload created by deprivation.

Interview: Save Our Surgeries campaigners

GP campaigners from the Save Our Surgeries campaign have said the headroom funding they won should be made available to practices elsewhere.

SOS chairwoman and retired practice manager Maggie Falshaw said: ‘NHS England is not going to publicise this option, but the headroom budget must apply across the country.’

‘Surgeries will have to be prepared to fight to get access. They will need to write an appeal and get backing from the BMA and the RCGP. Getting your MP and the local community involved will also help. But the key point is that the funding is there – you can apply to your CCG, if it has opted for full co-commissioning, or directly to the local NHS England area teams.’

As GPonline revealed last month, the non recurrent headroom fund amounts to 1% of primary medical services funding in each CCG area. NHS England London has agreed to transfer that money, which for Tower Hamlets amounts to £407,000, to the CCG.

Primary care funding

The 1% headroom fund is held by all NHS England area teams and can be made available to commissioners ‘for investment in transformational change in primary care’.

The funding has been available to area teams in previous years and is included within the national business rules for NHS England, funded within the primary care funding allocation.

The fund is equal to 1% of NHS England's total primary care allocation, worth around £12bn. For delegated co-commissioners, the fund is 1% of their delegated budget for primary medical services and is retained by NHS England to be accessed by the CCG.

Dr Symniakou Spyridon from the Albion Practice, which was under threat of closure, said: ‘Abolishing MPIG, with no risk assessment around deprivation, was bad planning and threatened to destabilise the whole of primary care in east London. It wasn’t just bad news for a few GP partnerships – it would have been a disaster for all our patients.’

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