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Plans for state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs in Wales

Defence body says GPs should have more choice

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Welsh government has announced its preferred partner to deliver the new state-backed scheme to provide clinical negligence indemnity for GPs in Wales from next year.

A medical defence body, however, has criticised the move, saying this was an untested scheme with insufficient detail and could remove GPs’ ability to choose an integrated indemnity and advice product instead.

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething announced yesterday the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership’s Legal and Risk Services, who currently indemnify GPs working out of hours, is the preferred partner to operate the Future Liability Scheme from April next year.

Mr Gething, speaking in Cardiff at the Primary Heath Care Conference, organised by the Primary Care Hub and 1000 Lives Improvement in Public Health Wales, said the scheme, which would be aligned to the scheme announced in England, would ensure GPs in Wales were not disadvantaged and that GP recruitment and cross border activity would not be adversely affected by different schemes operating in the two countries.

Mr Gething said: “This new scheme will provide greater stability and certainty for GPs in Wales. It will support GP practices and primary care clusters in their delivery of sustainable and accessible health care.

“The Future Liabilities Scheme will cover the activity of all contractors who provide primary medical services. This will include clinical negligence liabilities arising from the activities of GP practice staff and other medical professionals such as salaried GPs; locum GPs; practice pharmacists; practice nurses; healthcare assistants.

“I will make a final decision on the delivery of the Future Liability Scheme in Wales following further engagement with medical defence organisations.”

Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) chief executive Chris Kenny was sceptical, saying: “We are concerned that this untested state-backed indemnity scheme will be implemented in April 2019 when so little detail has been shared with MDDUS or GPs in Wales.

“We have been pressing the UK and Welsh governments to provide comprehensive operating and funding details of the new scheme for some time now yet little has been forthcoming.”

The existing medical defence organisation (MDO) model worked well, he argued, adding: “Writing MDOs out of a claims service is a false economy – and a threat to GPs’ professional standing.

“That’s why we expect the state-backed schemes in Wales and England to preserve these principles. If government want to offer a simple claims only service, then GPs should be able to choose the integrated MDO service at no financial disbenefit.

“We believe this is a high-risk approach which fails to protect GPs’ professional reputation, removes choice and, as independent contractors, GPs should have the option to choose an integrated indemnity and advice product as compared to the state-backed scheme.”

Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the British Medical Association’s GPC Wales, said her organisation supported the Welsh government’s choice of preferred partner.

“The proposed scheme will address one of the biggest financial pressures on GPs and will help enable all GPs, practice teams and wider cluster healthcare professionals to work more closely together taking forward the transformation of Welsh primary care.”

Dr Peter Saul, joint-chair of Royal College of GPs Wales, said: “Indemnity is a real issue for GPs, which can affect the time they can spend in practice treating patients. The college campaigned for and supported the announcement of a state-backed indemnity scheme and it’s encouraging to see steps being taken to create a sustainable solution.”

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