Jubilee Street Practice in Tower Hamlets, east London, hit national headlines in April when it said it would be forced to hand back its contract this autumn because of losses of almost £1m as MPIG top-ups to core funding were withdrawn.
GPs and campaigners from across east London rallied in support of Jubilee Street and more than 20 other local practices facing heavy losses. A series of street protests organised under the Save Our Surgeries banner, a petition of over 20,000 names handed to Downing Street, and a high profile lobbying campaign helped force NHS England to agree to a financial support package announced last month.
Managing partner at Jubilee Street, Virginia Patania, told GP the practice received a grant covering the practice’s MPIG loses for the next two years at the end of last week and partners signed the agreement yesterday.
Ms Patania said that while saving Jubilee Street from closure was a victory to celebrate, unless the formula is changed to properly recognise deprivation by April 2016, the practice would still face losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Final victory not secured
‘Our staying open, you cannot call it a final victory,' she said. ‘It's a very important and welcome step, but it is one of the steps in the ongoing campaign to bring attention to GP funding.’
Campaigners have argued that practices in deprived areas are hit hard by MPIG withdrawal because the Carr-Hill funding formula does not properly recognise important deprivation factors and the additional workload practice face.
NHS England is reviewing the formula and working with the BMA to give greater weight to deprivation from April 2015.
The fact NHS England had agreed to the support package for a small number of practices, said Ms Patania, showed there was room to address GP funding overall.
The package, which is available only to ‘outliers’ facing loses over £3 per patient per year, has been condemned as unfair by GP leaders and accountants who have said there should be help for all practices facing losses.
Emotional staff meeting
Ms Patania said she knew of several practices that faced heavy losses but had not been offered support under the Section 96 deal. 'We know this achievement for us has to translate into greater support for the whole of general practice,' she said.
Around 40 Jubilee Street Practice staff were told the good news this lunchtime, a moment Ms Patania described as one of the most emotional experiences of her career.
‘You look are around and see 40 faces of people who for the past seven months have been thinking they are about to lose their jobs - no one has left, everybody has marched with us, they've stood by us, they've been without increases, their increments, they have taken the whole risk. And being able to stand in front of them and say thank you was the best thing that has happened to me since I started working. There was applause and I and my partners got quite teary. I was an unforgettable moment.’
The future of a High Court legal action brought against NHS England and the DH over their handling of the MPIG withdrawal by a Jubilee Street patient, Danny Currie, would be decided by Mr Currie, said Ms Patania.
‘Danny now has a surgery that will stay open for a further two years,' she said, ‘but part of Danny's concerns were around patient engagement and consultation in the process of changing GP funding, and it will have to be his decision if he continues pursuing that.’
Save Our Surgeries campaigners, including Jubilee Street partners, will take the campaign against general practice underfunding to NHS England's AGM in London tomorrow.