RURAL GP surgeries in North Yorkshire could face closure unless immediate action is taken to stave off a funding crisis, a health watchdog has warned.

Conservative-controlled North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee has heard many doctors fear the phasing-out of a payment scheme which supports them will leave huge shortfalls, with one estimating that his practice could lose about £78,000 a year.

The Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) system is used to provide compensation to small practices in remote areas, topping up their core funding, but it is expected to be axed in April under Government plans. Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said he will “personally” look into the implications of the proposals.

Councillor Jim Clark, who chairs the scrutiny committee, has written to NHS England – the main body responsible for commissioning GP services – following a meeting last week, saying the danger to rural surgeries needs to be urgently addressed as the MPIG withdrawal could leave some communities with inadequate local healthcare if doctors decide their practice is no longer viable.

“We have great concern over the long-term funding of GP services in North Yorkshire,” he said.

“It is essential that practices are properly funded, particularly in rural areas where the cost of providing local access is so much higher.”

Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP William Hague recently chaired a meeting on healthcare services in his constituency and said the “unique difficulties” of providing care in rural areas needs to be factored into funding decisions.

The Department of Health said phasing out MPIG was intended to achieve “better value” for the NHS by preventing some practices receiving thousands of pounds more in funding than others with similar patient numbers and needs, also saying any changes would be introduced over seven years to allow practices to adapt gradually.