Breakthrough for state GP indemnity as second MDO agrees terms on historic liabilities

A second medical defence organisation (MDO) has agreed terms for the government to take on liabilities pre-dating the 1 April introduction of state-backed indemnity, in a major breakthrough for the scheme.

NHS indemnity scheme (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
NHS indemnity scheme (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The MDDUS has become the second of the three main providers of GP medico-legal cover to agree terms with the government, almost six months after the state-backed GP indemnity scheme took effect earlier this year.

When the state-backed Clinical Negligence Scheme for GPs (CNSGP) took effect from 1 April 2019, just one of the three main providers of GP medico-legal cover - Medical Protection (MPS) - agreed terms for the government to take on its portfolio of 'historic' or 'existing' liabilities.

The MDU, however, has yet to agree terms - and remains locked in a legal battle with the government. The MDU launched legal action in June, arguing that it had no alternative because after months of talks the government had 'proposed no scheme that would be acceptable for the MDU's GP members' existing liabilities'.

GP indemnity

The failure to agree terms for the transfer of existing liabilities from all three main providers of indemnity means that although state-backed indemnity has covered 'future liabilities' - incidents from 1 April 2019 onwards - for all GPs in England since the scheme began, it has until now covered existing liabilities - events before 1 April - for only the roughly one in three GPs who had taken out cover with MPS.

Following the latest agreement, the MDDUS will continue to handle claims for an 'interim period' before the transfer of responsibility to NHS Resolution, which manages the CNSGP, is complete.

An update on state-backed GP indemnity published by the government said: 'Further to the written ministerial statement of 1 April 2019 regarding indemnity arrangements for NHS general practice in England, the government has now agreed commercial terms relating to the arrangements for the existing liabilities scheme (ELS) with Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS).

'The arrangements agreed are in respect of the historical NHS clinical negligence liabilities of MDDUS’s English GP members arising from incidents occurring before 1 April 2019. NHS Resolution will have oversight of the arrangements which include MDDUS continuing to handle claims for an interim period.

GP costs

'The majority of English GPs will now benefit from the arrangements agreed between DHSC and MPS and MDDUS. As with the previously agreed arrangements, the department will keep the operation of these arrangements under close scrutiny to ensure they deliver value for money and an effective service for GPs.'

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to create the state-backed GP indemnity scheme in October 2017 amid rising concern about the impact of soaring indemnity costs on the GP workforce.

The BMA warned at the time that indemnity costs for GPs had risen 50% between 2010 and 2016, leaving rates running at around £8,000 per GP per year - and that the spiralling costs were among factors forcing doctors out of the profession.

The MDU confirmed its legal action against the government was 'still ongoing'. A spokesperson said: 'We continue to seek a fair outcome for our members that makes good on the government's promise to protect GPs from the rising cost of claims.'

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