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High rise in indemnity costs for GPs, survey shows

‘Frightening figures’ may fuel recruitment crisis

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 04 September 2015

Medical indemnity costs have soared over the last year, with some GPs charged big fees for working extended hours.

This is the finding from the Family Doctor Association, which is calling on its members to check their indemnity cover, following the results of its ‘VoxDocs’ survey. 

The snapshot survey, carried out at the end of August, reveals the following facts and ‘frightening figures’:

  • A 25% increase in indemnity costs in the last 12 months. 
  • In 2015 the average session cost was £1,132, £869 in 2014 (not distinguishing in/out of hours) 
  • This equates to £11,320 per year for a 10 session week. 
  • Most GPs are covered by the three mutuals*; two GPs in the survey have 100% insurance-based cover (MIA/Towergate) paying the highest fees (£15,000 with a £25,000 per claim excess.) 
  • There is a big rise in fees for GPs undertaking out-of-hours sessions. 
  • Of concern is that some providers class extended hours surgeries as out of hours and charge for a 4 hour session to include those. 

Commenting, Dr Peter Swinyard, The National Chairman of the Family Doctor Association, said: “It is grossly unfair that indemnity cover for NHS work is only paid personally by GPs. All hospital staff enjoy cover from the Crown Indemnity scheme, although many ‘top-up’ their cover through the mutuals. Insurance in the open market is prohibitively expensive and has caused the retirement of doctors who cannot afford the fees or the risk of the excess payments. NHS England and the three devolved administrations must accept that NHS work requires NHS cover and bring GP cover in line with hospital doctors.”

Dr Swinyard warned that the high costs of cover may help fuel the current recruitment crisis.

“The exponential rise of medical indemnity fees just for being a regular GP without the out of hours factor, may be another reason younger doctors are avoiding general practice,” he said.

Responding to the FDA’s comments, Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at Medical Protection, told OnMedica: “The sad reality is that GPs are more likely to be sued now than ever before and a GP can now expect to be sued twice over an average career. The cost of claims against GPs can range from thousands of pounds for small value claims, up to multi-million pound compensation for cases involving long-term care, such as missed diagnosis of meningitis. Furthermore, in our experience, GPs undertaking significant work out-of-hours can be exposed to a higher level of risk when compared to their colleagues delivering primarily ‘in’ hours care. Each individual’s subscription rate is considered on its own merit and MPS does not apply out-of-hours rates to all GPs working extended hours.”

He added: “We are here to support the individual GP, to defend and protect their reputation and their interests. In 2014, we supported UK medical members across a number of specialties with nearly 11,000 new cases, which included clinical negligence claims, GMC hearings, complaints, disciplinaries and criminal matters.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “We understand the impact of indemnity costs on doctors and nurses and it is a priority issue for us to resolve. We are exploring options for how indemnity schemes could be developed.”

* The ‘mutuals’ are the Medical Protection Society, the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland and the Medical Defence Union.

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