Tackle GP indemnity or face huge NHS winter crisis, GPC chair warns ministers

Last winter's crisis will 'pale into insignificance compared to what will happen in the coming year' if the government fails to act on rising indemnity costs, the new chair of the GPC has warned.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)

Dr Richard Vautrey - speaking to GPonline in his first round of interviews since being elected to chair the BMA's GP committee - urged ministers and officials to work to find a solution within days or weeks.

‘The government can't wait to solve this problem,' Dr Vautrey warned. Medical defence organisations could be forced to make ‘significant’ hikes in indemnity premiums and fees ‘very soon’, he said, following the government's decision to slash the discount rate on personal injury payouts from 2.5% to -0.75% from March.

If those costs are passed on to GPs, he said, ‘that will make the winter crisis that we saw last year pale into insignificance compared with what will happen in the coming year if they don't ensure that all GPs who want to work out of hours or do more sessions can safely do so and have the necessary indemnity in place to be able to do it’.

GP indemnity

GP leaders are in ongoing talks with the government and medical defence organisations (MDOs) to find a solution. ‘We've told the DH just this week again that this has to be resolved quickly and has to be done in a way that ensures that every GP, whether they be a partner, a salaried GP or a locum doctor - any GP who’s on the performers list - needs to have indemnity cover so that they can work safely, and patients can be can be treated in all types of primary care settings.’

The 2017/18 GP contract deal secured a £30m to cover rising GP indemnity costs, paid to practices on a per patient basis.

The Conservative party pledged in its 2017 election manifesto to ensure ‘appropriate funding for GPs to meet rising costs of indemnity in the short term while working with the profession to introduce a sustainable long-term solution’.

Dr Vautrey said ministers and officials now had ‘no choice’ but to listen to what the GPC is saying. ‘What system is put in place is up for negotiation and that's something that we're actively discussing with the DH, with MDOs and others as well at the moment, but we have to resolve this problem, we have to do it quickly.’

He added: ‘The clock is ticking and we know that there is a risk that MDOs will have to make a significant increase to their indemnity premiums and the fees that they charge their members and those [higher] bills and requests for payment will be going out very soon if a change is not brought to bear very, very quickly. So we are making that very clear to the DH and we hope that they will work with us over the coming days and weeks to get something in place as soon as possible.’

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