THE financial ‘cliff edge’ facing two Lake District doctors’ surgeries was raised with MPs in Parliament this week.
MP Tim Farron won the special debate to air concerns about a serious funding threat facing local doctors in Hawkshead and Coniston.
Addressing ministers in Westminster Hall, Mr Farron warned that there would be ‘hugely damaging closures’ and that patient safety would be ‘harmed’ if the Government pressed ahead with its plan.
It is intending from April, to withdraw an annual compensation payment claimed by surgeries with low footfall, which is called the Minimum Practice Income Grant (MPIG).
But doctors relying on the payment have warned that they could close and it would hit them harder than surgeries close to larger-populated areas where it is easier for struggling practices to merge.
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Using a 20-page speech, Mr Farron said both practices were in need of ‘immediate aid’ from NHS England and the Department of Health.
“In my constituency, Coniston and Hawkshead are two communities in the central Lake District, which are about as remote as you can get in England,” he said.
“Both communities have a GPs surgery, both surgeries are at risk due to unsustainable funding.
“To be absolutely clear, and if you would care to have a look at your Ordnance Survey map of the Lakes, you will see that if either of those surgeries were to close, the next nearest surgery would be on the other side of at least one lake. Not to mention a couple of mountain ranges.”
He added: “Let’s be clear, unless a specific decision is taken to provide new and additional support for small rural surgeries, there will be a series of surgery closures that will be hugely damaging to our communities, patient safety and of course utterly embarrassing for government.
“The number of small rural GP surgeries who are facing up to falling off this funding cliff, is relatively small. At the last count, there are 36 in the whole country. So while intervention now is vital, it is also manageable and affordable. The cost of taking intelligent, targeted and swift action to prevent those closures will be extraordinarily cheap by comparison.”
Dr Jane Rimington, of Hawkshead, said afterwards: “It’s really important our local MP is supporting us against this loss of funding for GPs services as there are lots of rural practices in the South Lakes. “If, by raising concerns in the Houses of Parliament, it can bring this issue to wider attention, it will hopefully get the Government to change its policy, which would be marvellous.”