AT LEAST 98 GP practices are threatened with closure as a direct result of Tory coalition funding cuts, doctors union the BMA warned yesterday.

The BMA further warns that a number of those 98 GP practices are rural, and provide ‘vital services to thousands of country patients’. Their closure would mean that people in rural communities would be left without any healthcare provision for many miles around.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said: ‘The government has seriously misjudged the potential impact of its funding changes, especially on rural GP services.

‘It is likely that a few hundred practices will lose noticeable levels of funding, with 98 practices identified by NHS England as being at serious risk from severe cuts in their financial support that could threaten their ability to remain open.

‘This comes at a time when GP practices are already under pressure from rising workload and declines in overall levels of funding.’

The BMA said in a statement: ‘Last year the government decided to begin phasing out the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) from April 2014.

‘MPIG provides an important financial lifeline to many smaller GP practices by guaranteeing a minimum level of funding that is not dependent on the number of patients a GP practice has on its practice list.

‘NHS England have identified 98 GP practices that will lose substantial levels of funding that could place their long-term survival in question.

‘In addition to the 98, there are a significant number of other practices that will be severely affected.

‘This is compounded by the government’s failure to put in place a national plan to help support the practices affected.’

However, Dr Chaand Nagpaul stressed: ‘The government has not confirmed where these practices are or the extent of their financial difficulty; however, some will be smaller GP practices in rural communities with comparatively small numbers of patients registered with them.

‘These GPs provide vital services to patients in areas where accessing healthcare is already not easy because of the large distances patients have to travel to get to their local NHS services.

‘If these practices were to close it could leave large geographical areas without a nearby GP practice.

‘The situation has not been helped by NHS England’s decision to devolve responsibility for this issue to local NHS managers without a framework on how these GP practices should be supported. We are without a national plan of how to tackle this problem and safeguard GP services.

‘Ministers have to get a grip on this problem urgently given these funding reductions are just weeks away from being implemented. We need to ensure no practice closes and that there is a coordinated approach to deal with this issue.’