Funding cuts threaten 12 Hackney GP surgeries

Lower Clapton group at the Lower Clapton practice.

Lower Clapton group at the Lower Clapton practice. - Credit: Archant

Doctors fear the government is deliberately trying to bankrupt their surgeries to pave the way for private companies to take over – as funding cuts threaten a dozen GP surgeries in the borough.

The Lower Clapton Group Practice, Well Street Surgery and the Lawson Practice are understood to be among 12 in Hackney, and 98 in England, identified by NHS England as at risk of closure, as a result of changes introduced this month.

Over the next seven years Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has decided to withdraw the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG), which acts as a “financial buffer” for many surgeries, with nothing to compensate for the loss of income.

Introduced a decade ago, the MPIG was designed to even out the higher costs incurred by practices in deprived areas where poverty is a major cause of ill-health.

The Lower Clapton Group training surgery in Lower Clapton Road will lose £250,000, starting with £35,000 this year, and rising in £35,000 increments until 2020.

GP Nick Brewer, a partner there, is worried the move could bankrupt them. He said: “In seven years’ time this would make us very financially unstable. Some practices may have to close or combine but ultimately it will mean less doctors and less nurses.


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“We are all working harder and longer but there’s only so long you can work in a day.

“At a time when most Hackney residents say it’s difficult to get an appointment, the service will only get worse.

“There are just constant cuts and cuts, the worry is there’s more to come.”

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, any new practice created has to be put out to tender to the private sector.

Dr Brewer said: “This favours the private sector, which is used to preparing tenders. You might imply from that this is the case to deliberately bankrupt us.”

Nick Mann, a GP at the Well Street Surgery, where partners have already taken pay cuts and the blood sample collection service has been axed, said: “My impression is the government would like to see more GP surgeries run by private providers, the easiest way to achieve this might be to bankrupt general practices in a similar way they declared hospitals as failing.”

Coral Jones, honorary secretary of the City and Hackney division of the British Medical Association believes the move will lead to the “demise of general practice” and compared the model to that of health maintenance organisations in the United States.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The changes are part of a national policy to bring all practices into an equal financial position, which will ensure that all patients can expect the same high level of service from their GP where ever they live.”

“The majority of GP practices in London will receive more funding in their global sum as a result of these changes, but some will receive less.”

The Department of Health declined to comment.