GP practices will receive the first payments from a £30m fund to cover rising indemnity costs for 2016/17 from April, with shares of a further £30m for 2017/18 to follow. NHS England has also announced that the winter indemnity scheme for GPs would be extended to help cover costs for doctors working out-of-hours shifts over Easter.
But in a House of Commons debate on GP indemnity costs on Wednesday, health minister David Mowat pledged that financial support to protect GPs from the impact of soaring indemnity costs would 'go on into the future'.
The government was committed to 'holding to' promises made in the GP Forward View to support GPs facing rising indemnity costs, he told MPs.
GP indemnity costs
'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 £33m this year. That is a commitment that will go on into the future.'
The health minister added that doctors ‘will not have to pay’ as a result of changes made to lower the discount rate applied to personal injury compensation sums from 2.5% to -0.75%, which is set to significantly increase pay-outs in successful claims.
The government is now working alongside the three main medical defence organisations to find ways to prevent these increases being passed on to GPs through increased indemnity premiums, he said.
Opening the debate, MP Alex Chalk warned that rising indemnity was an ‘acute problem’ that was impacting on GP recruitment.
In his outline for the debate, he referenced a number of statistics, including findings from a GPonline poll which found that the majority of full-time GPs now pay over £7,500 a year to maintain legal cover.
Other GPonline articles – on the decision to lower the personal injury discount rate and how the decision to pay the £30m fund to practices could cause ‘divisive’ situations for locums – were also referenced.
Following the debate, Mr Chalk said: ‘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 £30m per year is a commitment that will, in his words, "go on into the future".
‘Whether it’s in the form of that scheme or another one, the message does need to get out in the not too distant future that this matter is being addressed.’