MPs consider £500,000 'strategic fund' for rural GPs facing MPIG cuts

Rural GP practices hit hard by MPIG cuts could share a £500,000 'strategic fund' under a bill introduced to parliament by a senior Liberal Democrat.

Parliament: bill introduced calling for rural GP support (Photo: Ian Bottle)
Parliament: bill introduced calling for rural GP support (Photo: Ian Bottle)

A spokesman for Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrat party and MP for South Lakes, Cumbria, told GP the fund would aim to support around 35 practices in deeply rural areas.

It would not be new funding, but would be drawn from the existing DH budget, and share out around £500,000 between eligible practices based on need.

The General Practitioner Surgeries (Rural Areas) Bill 2014/15 aims to support practices such as Dr Karen Massey’s Slaidburn Health Centre, in Lancashire.

Dr Massey told GP last year that her practice – which faces losses worth tens of thousands of pounds – could become unviable after the first year of MPIG cuts.

Positive feedback on proposals

Mr Farron’s spokesman said feedback in meetings with ministers and NHS England had been ‘quite positive’.

The bill’s first reading in parliament came on 21 October, and campaigners are hopeful it could become law before the next general election.

A statement from Mr Farron warned that some practices were losing 35% of their funding under MPIG cuts, warning that vital services in countryside communities would be undermined if the practices became unviable.

GPs at heart of rural communities

He said: ‘In the last couple of years we have worked hard to secure major investment for surgeries throughout South Lakeland. Many of the practices now hold clinics and do minor surgery. I hope that this bill I have proposed will be supported by the government and we can safeguard our GP practices.

‘I will keep fighting as hard as I can to defend our rural GP practices - they are at the heart of communities like Hawkshead and Coniston.’

Along with senior Conservatives including leader of the House of Commons William Hague, Mr Farron has been pressing for support for rural practices affected by MPIG losses for some time.

The bill’s second reading in parliament is scheduled for 9 January 2015.

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