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GP indemnity costs support may continue after 2018

Minister implies government support will be long-term

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Government financial support to help GPs with the rising costs of indemnity cover could continue beyond 2018, MPs have been told.

During a parliamentary debate held yesterday on the issue of the cost of GP indemnity in England, health minister David Mowat said the government had a “commitment that will go on into the future” on helping with these costs.

Initial payments from a £30 million government fund to cover rising indemnity costs for GPs in 2016-17 are due to be paid from next month and a similar fund is already pledged for 2017-18.

This is in addition to a winter indemnity scheme for GPs to encourage them to participate in out-of-hours work, which has been extended to the end of April to help cover extra shifts over the Easter period.

During the debate, Alex Chalk, Conservative MP for Cheltenham, praised GPs for their ongoing work and dedication, but said: “I am concerned about an issue which has the potential to restrict the vital pipeline of new GPs – the issue of GP indemnity.

“They are rising at such a rate that premiums are discouraging GPs from taking on certain forms of work including out-of-hours care and are even discouraging some medical students from entering primary care in the first place.”

Indemnity costs had risen from an average £5,200 per year in 2010 to £7,900 by 2016, he said, and there was a need for long-term as well as short-term solutions.

Mr Mowat said: “In the GP Forward View we have said that GPs will not bear the costs of increased indemnity. The government will, and that is a commitment we are holding to. The increases that were incurred last year will be paid through the GP contract at a cost of £33 million this year. That is a commitment that will go on into the future.”

Mr Mowat also sought to give reassurance on the announcement last month made by Lord Chancellor and justice secretary Liz Truss that the discount rate applied to personal injury claims would be lowered from 2.5% to minus 0.75% from 20 March.

The change to the discount rate – the mechanism used by courts to adjust large compensation payments to take account of future investment returns – was roundly criticised by the medical defence bodies saying that it would add billions of pounds to the cost of claims made against the NHS.

Mowat said: “The £59 billion reserve that the NHS has for the central litigation costs will increase just by this change, by something in excess of £5 billion or £6 billion.

“The position of the government is that doctors will not have to pay as a consequence of this change in the discount rate. We are working through how that is going to work in terms of the central litigation authority and also the insurance companies.”

Mr Chalk added: “The government is clearly taking this seriously and I am grateful for that. GPs do, however, need to hear that these short-term solutions will translate into a long-term solution, and I was very encouraged by the comments of the minister that the commitment that is being made of £30 million per year is a commitment that will, in his words, ‘go into the future’.”

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