Government to 'push cut in rural funding'

HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt aims to push ahead with plans to cut funding for rural doctors, it is reported.

The government wants to phase out compensation payments for GPs surgeries with low footfall between next year and 2021 - even though critics claim it will force the closure of rural practices.

The Yorkshire Post said plans to phase out the so-called Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) were in "stark contrast" to a confidential NHS-funded report obtained by the newspaper.

The document provided a "clear perspective" on long-held views that it was vital to retain funding to protect rural healthcare, said the newspaper.

Consultants from Deloitte compiled the report over an 11-week period before it was published in March 2006. Small rural practices incurred significant additional costs to their urban counterparts, they said.

The study also warned that the large additional travel costs incurred by patients would outweigh the savings if GP practices were merged.

Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie said: "If GP practices were to close in the deeply rural areas of North Yorkshire, it would strike a hammer blow at the very heart of their communities, and call into question their long-term future.

"Is it not surely a right to have a GP practice operating in the midst of your community when the next nearest alternative is 10 miles or more away?"

Councillor Blackie claimed only 100 deeply rural GP practices out of more than 10,000 surgeries in England would qualify for compensation payments.

The Department of Health said the decision to phase out the MPIG payments is aimed at making a fairer funding system.

A spokesman said the department recognised concerns about rural provision of medical services.

A "rural health tookit" - including advice about providing fair funding for the NHS - would be published on 30 November.

For the full Yorkshire Post article, click here.


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