Exclusive: NHS England in talks over indemnity costs amid threat to seven-day GP care

NHS England has held talks with medical defence organisations over the soaring indemnity costs GPs face, amid fears the charges could undermine plans for seven-day GP services from 8am to 8pm.

Simon Stevens: personal pledge to tackle GP indemnity costs (Photo: Pete Hill)
Simon Stevens: personal pledge to tackle GP indemnity costs (Photo: Pete Hill)

NHS England has opened discussions with leading medical defence organisations, admitting that the 'impact of rising indemnity costs on delivering primary care...is a priority issue for us to resolve'.

Officials say it is too early to clarify what the solution will be, and refused to commit to covering or contributing to the indemnity costs GPs face.

GP leaders have called for the government to cover the cost of GP indemnity in full, warning that 'exorbitant fees' were putting young doctors off careers in general practice. The GPC has called for crown indemnity cover for hospital doctors to be extended to primary care.

GP indemnity costs

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens pledged earlier this year personally to investigate rising indemnity costs after a GP challenged him during a Q&A session at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool.

A recent GPonline poll revealed that one in three GPs say their medical indemnity fees have risen by 20% or more over the past five years. LMCs, meanwhile, warn that the fees hike is forcing doctors out of the profession, adding to the GP workforce crisis.

An NHS England spokeswoman told GPonline: 'We are keen to work with stakeholders to address the barriers to implementing new models of care and developing an extended workforce in primary care. This will include how better we can address indemnity costs, but at this stage it is too early to advise how this may work.'

New models of care

Medical Protection Society medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: 'As a responsible membership organisation we continue to talk with NHS England and government regarding the provision of indemnity to healthcare professionals in UK. In recent months we have had conversations with NHS England and the DH regarding the need for legal reform to tackle the rising costs of clinical negligence, as well as considering how we might understand and plan for new and emerging models of care.'

Dr Matthew Lee, director of professional services at the MDU, said: 'We are certainly in regular contact with relevant parties including NHS England about claims inflation which is far outstripping other measures of inflation.

'Damages are doubling every seven years and the number of new claims notified against GPs has doubled over the last five years. Inevitably this is reflected in the cost of providing indemnity. Reform is needed now to make the costs of compensation claims fairer and more affordable and we are doing everything we can to raise this issue via our fair compensation campaign.'

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