GP indemnity crisis will not be solved by short-term funding fix, warn MDOs

Medical defence organisations (MDOs) have welcomed funding from NHS England to offset rises in indemnity costs, but warned that legal reforms are necessary to fix the underlying causes of soaring fees.

NHS England has earmarked £60m funding to offset the rises in indemnity over the next two years, it announced in a raft of measures to alleviate pressures on general practice.

But MDOs have called for assurances that the proposals – which were drawn up with their input – go further to ensure long-lasting solutions to indemnity problems are implemented.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) said the additional money would work as a short-term solution, but warned legal reform is needed to tackle the source of the problems.

GP indemnity costs

Dr Matthew Lee, MDU director of professional services, said: ‘Today’s report acknowledges the concerns we have been raising for some time. The spiralling cost of litigation against NHS GPs is placing an unsustainable burden on them because they are responsible for their own indemnity costs.

‘We welcome the arrangements being put in place to support GPs but the fact that the DH has needed to step in to protect them from rises in indemnity costs shows the need for reform of personal injury law. The only realistic solution is to stem the frequency and cost of negligence claims to ensure NHS money is spent on front-line services instead of litigation.

‘We are pleased this has been acknowledged and would encourage the government to take urgent action to address this problem through legal reform.’

Simon Kayll, CEO at Medical Protection said: ‘We have been working with the DH and NHS England during the review and we look forward to future engagement to help us to better understand how this will work for our members in practice. We will absolutely support any such scheme because we understand the impact and strength of feeling around this issue and are committed to supporting our members in any way we can.

‘Only last week we heard that the NHS Litigation Authority has estimated that a staggering £56.1bn will be needed to cover known and future claims for clinical negligence for past patient care in the NHS.

Clinical negligence claims

‘This is why legal reform, to tackle the root cause of increasing costs is a must. We believe introducing fixed costs for small value claims and a limit on damages for future costs of care and earnings will help make the cost of clinical negligence more affordable.’

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) also said it was ‘vital’ to fix causes, not only symptoms. Chief executive Chris Kenny said: ‘We welcome the fact that the government and NHS England have found the indemnity market to be efficient and competitive. They have not reached for naive solutions with unpredictable effects in the long term and should not be tempted to do so in the future.

‘We welcome the measures to relieve immediate pressures. It is now vital to address causes, not just symptoms. So we urge the government to make rapid headway on the tort reform and recoverable costs agenda to build sustainability.

‘We will continue to work with the profession and the NHS to ensure that indemnity keeps up-to-date with the needs of a changing service. We look forward to working actively with government and NHS England on the further actions detailed in the review.’

Photo: iStock

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