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GP LEADERS yesterday handed in a 16,000-strong petition from patients to Downing Street demanding ministers act urgently to help GP practices under threat of closure due to funding cuts.

A number of GP practices across England are facing drastic funding shortfalls following the government’s decision to phase out the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) from April 2014.

This vital financial lifeline provides additional support to practices in challenging circumstances, such as those serving large rural areas or practices looking after deprived and needy communities.

NHS England has conceded that 98 practices across England will lose significant funding, while hundreds more will also be affected, but have failed to put in place a national plan to help practices that are under threat.

In London, practices covering deprived areas, including 22 in Tower Hamlets, say they are facing the prospect of closure as the MPIG cuts begin to bite.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said: ‘The BMA has been warning the government for well over a year that its decision to phase out MPIG would leave a number of practices in challenging circumstances at risk from closure.

‘All GP practices are under real, sustained pressure from a combination of rising patient demand, declining funding and the government’s desire to move more care into the community. Given this climate, many of the practices that are funded by MPIG can ill-afford to lose this vital funding stream.

‘The Tower Hamlets practices have to provide care to some of the most deprived areas in London where the population has significant health needs. They are likely to struggle to provide these services unless the government takes urgent action. We face the real prospect of some of the most vulnerable patients potentially being left without nearby access to GP services.

‘This situation is completely unacceptable. As the BMA has re-iterated repeatedly to ministers and NHS England, we need a long-term urgent solution to the MPIG crisis and to those many other practices across the country facing similar cuts to essential funding, including those in Tower Hamlets. The government must act before patient care is damaged.’