Unsustainable medical indemnity fees 'need to be covered by NHS', says GPC

The NHS must step up to cover the 'unsustainable' medical indemnity costs charged to GPs, either by directly reimbursing them or extending crown indemnity to the whole profession, the GPC has said.

Medical indemnity fees have increased by over 20% for a third of GPs in the last five years
Medical indemnity fees have increased by over 20% for a third of GPs in the last five years

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said a solution to the soaring costs of legal cover was needed ‘as quickly as possible’, warning that the exorbitant fees were putting off young doctors and ‘undermining the urgent care service’.

Reacting to a GPonline survey, which found medical indemnity fees had increased by over 20% for a third of GPs in the last five years, he said the current fees were ‘unsustainable for GPs’ and the NHS must cover the costs.

This should be accompanied by a ‘reform of the whole system of payments’, he added.

Indemnity costs increased

He told GPonline: ‘The rapid rise in indemnity costs is unsustainable for GPs and will prevent them from taking on additional activities, such as out-of-hours sessions, even if they want to do them.

‘It’s also wider issue as practices take on more staff within their practice team. It’s the GP who carries the indemnity for all of those staff members, so the risks potentially become greater. So we do need to tackle this issue.'

The GPC is ‘regularly’ raising the issue with both the government and NHS England, he said.

‘The bottom line is that the funding and indemnity risk needs to be covered, and it needs to be covered properly by the NHS – whether that be funding and reimbursing the indemnity costs for individuals or through some form of extension of crown indemnity.

‘With crown indemnity you would still need additional indemnity because it doesn’t cover everything that GPs may get involved with. But we do need to find a way of covering costs.

Undermining out-of-hours

‘I think the other thing is that there needs to be a reform to the whole system of payments for people who have had adverse incidents and we need that reform. It’s something the independent medical defence organisations have been calling for for some time. So we need to actually reduce the costs of the system as a whole, that’s the driver for the rising fees.’

Should the current situation continue, the UK could end up ‘in the same state as in America’, he warned, ‘where you can't recruit certain clinicians because of the indemnity costs’.

‘It’s another factor that will put young doctors off from becoming GPs, because of the rising indemnity costs,’ he added.

‘It will prevent GPs doing out-of-hours sessions when they choose to do so and therefore undermine the urgent care service. All of these things have a knock-on effect, so we do need to fundamentally look at this and find a solution as quickly as possible.’

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