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DH to develop state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs

MDU announces 50% cut in GP indemnity costs as it expects NHS scheme to pick up claims

Louise Prime

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Department of Health is to work with GP representatives on developing a state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs to protect them from the costs of clinical negligence claims, Jeremy Hunt has announced in a written statement to the House of Commons. The Medical Defence Union has immediately responded to the health secretary’s statement by announcing a 50% reduction in GP indemnity costs. The BMA called for rapid progress on the scheme, which it insisted should cover all GPs, however they are working.

Jeremy Hunt said the scheme could provide a more stable and affordable system for GPs, with financially sustainable cover “for future, and potentially historic, claims arising from the delivery of NHS services”, though he added that “transfer of historic liabilities from MDOs [medical defence organisations] to a new scheme would be dependent on satisfactory negotiation with the MDOs.”

The DH said that it had worked with GPs and the four MDOs that currently provide GPs with indemnity cover, and agreed that any new scheme should meet the needs of current and future GPs; be in the interest of patients; and represent value for money for taxpayers. It added that discussions are ongoing – the scheme will need careful negotiation and “will take at least 12 to 18 months to establish” – and in the meantime, GPs must ensure that they have appropriate indemnity cover, in line with General Medical Council requirements.

The MDU said the scheme will be “a welcome development for GPs”, and it was contacting all its GP members working under an NHS England contract to tell them that from 1 November 2017, members renewing their membership and those joining the MDU will see subscription quotes about 50% lower than current levels, reflecting its expectation that claims arising from NHS primary care provided since the announcement will in due course be picked up by the new NHS scheme. MDU GP members working in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not affected by the change as, to date, no state indemnity plans have been announced in these areas.

The MDU said that during the transitional period, members can continue to report claims to the MDU as normal and all other benefits of membership are unaffected; furthermore, the discounted subscriptions apply to the whole practice team for work under an NHS England contract. Members who retire or leave in the transitional period will need to apply for extended benefit rights until the new scheme is introduced.

Its chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins explained: “To be workable, the scheme will not only need to pick up new GP claims, but also claims costs which have not already been paid for GPs working under an NHS England contract ...

“In the meantime, we want to pass on to our primary care members in England, some of the savings we anticipate will follow the scheme’s introduction.” She said the resulting significant reduction in subscriptions “is great news at a time when GPs are struggling with indemnity costs”.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, commented: “The commitment to provide state-backed indemnity cover is a particularly welcome step after the talks the government has being having directly with the BMA over the summer. We do however, need more detail on the financing of this scheme and it must cover all GPs whether they are a partner, salaried, locum, prison or other GP. It is also important we make progress quickly and deliver real change.”

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