MPIG campaigners 'optimistic' after meeting Hunt

Campaigners trying to protect rural practices from the effects of MPIG withdrawal said they are 'optimistic' following a meeting with Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt: met campaigners for rural MPIG solution (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

Councillor John Blackie, the independent leader of Richmondshire district council, and a member of North Yorkshire County Council, led a delegation to meet the health secretary.

He told GP he felt Mr Hunt had ‘readily accepted’ there were sound arguments that rural practices could be detrimentally affected by the withdrawal of MPIG top-ups to core pay.

The meeting was attended by foreign secretary William Hague who, alongside former Tory party vice chair Nigel Evans and Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron, is backing the campaign.

Under GMS contract changes imposed by the government in England, MPIG top-ups to core pay will be redistributed over seven years from 2014. About 65% of practices in England benefit from MPIG funding, with some receiving as much as half their core pay from the top-up.

Mr Blackie said Mr Hunt told the meeting that MPIG was deeply flawed, so there could be no return to it.

‘What he didn’t want to do, is take away one set of anomalies and replace it with another. He does need to be careful in trying to differentiate those that need help to continue to be viable, vital and stable, from those that can manage without.’

Mr Blackie said he believed the issue would be dealt with by the DH through the current ongoing GP contract negotiations.

The threat was causing ‘deep uncertainty’ in rural practices and among the patients and communities they serve and a speedy resolution is vital, he warned.

Ahead of the meeting last week, Mr Hunt told MPs that decisions about the future of MPIG had been handed to NHS England and were out of ministers’ hands under the new structures.

‘The most important thing about this very difficult issue about funding formulae is that it should be fair, and that is why in the new legislation we’ve given that decision to an independent body so that’s taken at arms length from ministers and that it makes the right balance between the issues of rurality, age and social deprivation,’ he told MPs.

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘We know that rural practices form a vital role in communities they serve. ‘We are currently working with NHS England to consider how best to manage the impact of changes to the MPIG in rural areas.’

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