Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

GPs Warn of Rural Surgeries Closing; Budget-Slashing Plan Will Hit Hard, They Say

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

GPs Warn of Rural Surgeries Closing; Budget-Slashing Plan Will Hit Hard, They Say

Article excerpt

Byline: By Audrey Barton and Ben Guy

FAMILY doctors last night said they feared rural surgeries would close under budgetslashing plans.

GPs across Northumberland face having their budgets slashed from next year to help make savings.

Northumberland Care Trust is fighting a pounds 14m debt and must save a further pounds 11.9m to break even in April.

Under cash-saving measures the trust is now cutting pounds 1.6m from GP services and has sent out letters to GP practices giving them individual financial breakdowns.

Doctors say the contract cuts range from a small gain for practices in the south-east of the county to a cut of almost a quarter of gross income in the west.

But health bosses have said that in an effort to make reductions as manageable as possible, they have capped them at 9% for the next financial year although it is too early to say whether cuts will be needed in future years.

However, doctors are speaking out against the money being shaved from their contracts and are threatening a vote of no confidence in the directors of the trust.

Jane Lothian, medical secretary at Northumberland Local Medical Committee, has been involved in negotiating the contract with health chiefs.

She said the overall percentage changes varied but worked out at 24% of gross income in the practices worst hit which would be capped at 9% for one year.

"This is the first time we have had the breakdown for the practices and how it will affect them.

"This could mean closure in rural areas.

We are looking at about six (closures) across the county," she said.

She said it had taken 20 years to build up these rural practices but now they were being "penalised".

Doctors have spoken about their fears for smaller more rural practices such as Allendale, Bellingham, Haltwhistle, Haydon Bridge, Humshaugh, Wark, Scots Gap and Stocksfield although they impact upon all GP practices in Tynedale.

Bill Purdue, county councillor for South Tynedale, said a cut in the region of 10% for some small practices in the county might mean they have to close. …

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