GPs fight cuts which threaten their future

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

A Sheffield MP has spoken out in Parliament over the plight of local GP surgeries which could face closure following cuts to a special funding pot.

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, says five GP practices in the city - two in his constituency - are threatened by the withdrawal of the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee, extra money which supports surgeries catering for patients with complex and demanding health needs.

The Government began withdrawing the funding in April, and plans to phase it out over the next seven years.

Mr Blomfield raised the issue during Health Questions in Parliament on Tuesday.

He said the income guarantee was ‘introduced to meet the particular needs of specific practices’.

“Those needs have not changed,” he said.

“NHS England has drawn up a list of 100 practices across the country that will be threatened by its withdrawal. Five are in Sheffield. Two are in my constituency.”

The MP added: “Local GPs have expressed serious concerns to me about the consequences of this vital funding being withdrawn.

“Our GP surgeries are the first port of call for most people who are unwell or have health difficulties.

“No-one wants to see service cutbacks having to be made which is why I’m raising this issue now before the situation gets critical.

“The Government should be talking to GP surgeries now and rethinking this decision.”

Dr Graham Pettinger, a partner at the Hanover Street and Devonshire Green Medical Centres, said his practice was set to lose £140,000 a year.

“We have no intention of closing at all - we are going to fight this every step of the way,” he said. “This is a national decision by the Government to withdraw this funding. But if it was to go through, and if this funding was not replaced, then in theory it could threaten the survival of the practice.”

Dr Pettinger said his centres had a high number of patients living in deprivation, with mental health problems or multiple physical ailments.

Translators are often needed to help non-English speaking patients.

“Our day-to-day surgeries are typically much longer than a standard consultation, covering many complex issues,” he said.

“Demand for our consultations is very high. That means we have to employ a relatively high number of staff and doctors per number of patients, compared to a more typical practice. That obviously puts up the cost to provide that service.”

He said moving or merging with another practice was not a viable option.

“I don’t see where we could move to - we’re the most central practice in Sheffield.”

Mr Blomfield said he would be ‘seeking a meeting with Ministers to press the issue further’.