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GPs urged to lobby on legal decision leading to 'devastating' indemnity rises

MDU launches 'Save General Practice' campaign in face of massive rise in negligence claims

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Medical Defence Union officials have called on GPs to lobby parliamentary candidates about the 'potentially devastating impact' that a recent legal decision could have on GP clinical negligence costs.

It has launched the Save General Practice campaign to ask for urgent government support.

The MDU wants the new government to prioritise the matter because it says the large increases in indemnity costs are unaffordable at a time of 'unprecedented' pressure on general practice.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins has written to GP members warning that the Lord Chancellor's change to the discount rate – the interest rate used by courts to calculate lump sum compensation payments to victims of clinical negligence incidents and other personal injury claims – has added hundreds of millions to the cost of claims payable by medical defence organisations.

She pointed out that, despite strong lobbying, the Lord Chancellor announced a change to the discount rate from 2.5%, which had been the level since 2001, to -0.75%, effective from 20 March.

Under the ruling a claim that would previously have settled for £8.4m would now settle for £17.5m, she said.

The Lord Chancellor's statement on the issue included a commitment that the Department of Health would work closely with GPs and medical defence organisations to ensure appropriate funding is available to meet additional costs to GPs.

However, the MDU has said it has been in regular discussion with government departments since December 2016, with no announcement of a solution. It added that with the general election now underway no announcement is possible until after the election and that it might not emerge for months.

Dr Tomkins argued that the rising cost of GP indemnity has been a cause of serious concern for some time and prompted an NHS England review of GP indemnity in July 2016. The discount rate change had made matters much worse, she said.

'The MDU… has made clear to the government that GPs should not have to bear these unaffordable costs. We will continue negotiating with government to find a workable solution.'

The MDU is urging GPs to get involved in calling on government to shield general practice from a potentially devastating impact of the new charges and to complete an online survey.

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