A GP has warned that Scarborough Hospital could be forced to cope with increased numbers of patients as rural doctors’ surgeries have their budgets slashed.
Dr Julian Fester, of Egton Surgery in the Esk Valley, has raised concerns about Government proposals to phase out the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG).
This means that over the next seven years, Egton surgery could lose £70,000 of income, Danby could lose £60,000 and the budget in Sleights could be cut by £40,000.
Dr Fester has told Scarborough Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee that this could have a huge impact on patient care - with knock-on effects such as increased hospital admissions and visits to A&E.
He said: “I don’t think we can lose this amount of money without substantial cuts in the services we provide.
“The largest expense in all practices is staff - the most expensive being the doctor. In Egton, we can’t we can’t save £70,000 without losing a doctor.”
He added patients will have to travel further to be seen and there will be less appointments available, adding: “We have a culture of visiting elderly patients due to poor transport on the moor, but our ability to do this will be reduced in the future.”
Dr Fester also said: “Unless we look at radical changes to the way services are delivered, we will find individual practices such as Egton may have their viability threatened.”
The service cuts that would be forced upon rural practices such as these would lead to more patients going to hospital for treatment, according to Dr Fester.
For example, at the moment, some minor procedures and the removal of stitches can be carried out at the GP’s surgery.
However, services like this could be lost, increasing the burden on the already-stretched local hospitals, such as Scarborough and James Cook in Middlesbrough.
Dr Fester is also concerned about the message it would send out when trying to recruit young doctors to this area.
The issue has now been taken up by the council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, with members agreeing to support local GPs by writing to our local MPs and the health secretary.
Cllr David Jeffels, chairman of the committee, said: “A key issue is that patients will have to travel further and transport in the Esk Valley is not good - it’s virtually non-existent.
“We need to look at protecting our residents in that area, especially the elderly and young families.”
He added: “We’re right behind you and will do all we possibly can.”
Cllr Alf Abbott said he was concerned about the potential impact on those living at Botton Village, who attend a regular surgery at Egton.
Dr Fester said if the cuts go ahead, their ability to run this surgery would be “severely threatened”.
Cllr David Billing said he would endorse the concerns at full council and that the proposals seemed to him “absolutely barmy”.
Cllr Guy Coulson said he saw the proposals as an “infringement on people’s human rights for equal medical care everywhere”.
The proposed funding cuts are due to start in April, with the withdrawal of money phased over the next seven years.
A group of doctors, patients and medical staff in the Esk Valley have protested in recent weeks about the issue.