Tower Hamlets CCG in east London secured agreement with NHS England London on Thursday, in talks first revealed by GPonline, to use its delegated co-commissioning powers to offer financial support to struggling practices that were not able to benefit from the national MPIG support package.
Tower Hamlets CCG chief officer Jane Milligan said in a statement to GPonline the solution would mean severely financially challenged practices have access to support for the next two years.
CCG leaders are yet to confirm precisely how the funding will be distributed to practices. But Save Our Surgeries campaigner Virginia Patania, a CCG board member and managing partner at the Jubilee Street practice, said: ‘I am hoping it will cover anyone who has tangibly felt any type of loss over the past year.’
The three-year MPIG support package launched by NHS England London in 2014 - later adopted across England - was offered only to so-called outlier practices which faced losses over £3 per weighted patient. But that deal came under intense criticism from GPs who claimed they had been unfairly excluded.
Local NHS England officials admitted that they had used incorrect data to calculate the losses of two practices. Others claimed their losses had been underestimated.
GPs from Limehouse practice warned last month they were at risk of closure after a projected seven-year loss of over £600,000 and a 20% fall in partners’ share of profits led to staff losses and recruitment problems.
Tower Hamlets GPs and practice staff have led a London-wide campaign against funding cuts, which began after the Jubilee Street practice announced in 2014 that it faced imminent closure because of predicted MPIG losses totalling £900,000.
GP MPIG losses
Following a campaign of protests and lobbying NHS England agreed the section 96 financial support package last summer, but just 17 practices nationally out of 98 outliers were initially offered support. Jubilee Street was the only practice in Tower Hamlets helped with its losses.
East London GPs have maintained the pressure on officials and politicians to come up with a more comprehensive support package, meeting NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and health secretary Jeremy Hunt in recent months. The new agreement follows a visit by new primary care minister Alistair Burt to Limehouse Practice last month.
Ms Patania described the deal as ‘an extraordinary victory’. ‘We have a lot to celebrate,' she added, 'because we will be able to continue to deliver the care that Tower Hamlets is known for and we feel really reassured by how we have been able to work with the CCG and NHS England to secure something which is clearly of value to everyone.’
Limehouse Practice partner Dr Ruth Vickers said while there were no confirmed figures available yet, she was 'cautiously optimistic that we will qualify for some relief funding that will allow us to continue over the next 2 years while a longer term primary care funding formula which enables practices to be fairly funded is developed.'
'There are likely to be big changes in how primary care looks', added Dr Vickers. 'Limehouse is likely to be different.'
Tower Hamlets CCG chief officer Jane Milligan said: ‘We are pleased to announce that together with NHS England we have a solution that ensures practices that are severely financially challenged have access to support for the next two years. During this interim arrangement NHS Tower Hamlets CCG will work with our stakeholders and GP practices to develop a primary care strategy that outlines a long lasting solution to the challenges faced by primary care and the wider health economy.
‘The long-term future for primary care is an exciting one. We will need a completely new approach to delivering primary care to ensure its sustainability, but we have an absolute commitment to deliver it.’