Exclusive: Indemnity costs rising faster for GPs who work out-of-hours

Medical indemnity costs for GPs who do out-of-hours work are rising faster than costs for those who do not, a GPonline poll suggests.

GPs who work out-of-hours were 50% more likely to report that their fees had increased by over 20% in the last year, the poll found.

The sharp rise in fees has left out-of-hours organisations struggling to fill GP shifts, senior GPs have warned.

One in five GPs who took part in the GPonline survey said they did some out-of-hours work, out of 440 respondents in total.

Two fifths (38%) of GPs who work out-of-hours said their fees to maintain medical indemnity had leapt by over 20% in the last year.

Just a quarter (26%) of GPs who indicated they did not work out-of-hours reported similar increases.

GP indemnity

Full-time GPs who work out-of-hours were also 33% more likely to be paying indemnity costs in excess of £10,000 a year than in-hours GPs– with one in five (20%) paying over this threshold, against 15% of in-hours GPs who do not. One out-of-hours GP responding to the survey reported paying indemnity fees of over £20,000 a year.

A quarter (24%) of out-of-hours GPs said fees were less than £5,000, compared to 28% of other GPs.

A total of 7% of GPs said their indemnity costs fell over the past year. Costs were proportionally four times more likely to decrease for non out-of-hours GPs (8%) than for out-of-hours GPs (2%).

The findings follow on from results reported previously by GPonline, which showed that indemnity fees rose for over 90% of GPs in the last year, signifying that the rise in costs is accelerating.

Dr Mark Reynolds, medical director of out-of-hours service Integrated Care 24, said he was extremely concerned about the impact indemnity costs are having on GP availability for out-of-hours care.

He said: ‘It’s a really significant problem. Some GPs get sessions included in their practice cover but portfolio GPs are being hit quite hard.

GP workforce

‘I think it’s fair to say that all out-of-hours providers are concerned it’s having a significant effect on GP availability for the out-of-hours rotas.

‘We know this is affecting people’s willingness and ability to work. It also means that some colleagues are doing less because they can't afford the step increase in fees required for them to be flexible and step in at short notice.

‘There’s a significant increase even going from one to two sessions per week. We've been trying to raise it with the DH and in theory they're doing something about it – as referenced in the Forward View – but we don’t know what that might be.’

The GP Forward View mentions that it will bring forward proposals this month looking at potential solutions to indemnity pressures on GPs.

Medicolegal organisations told GPonline that they shared concern on the rising costs of indemnity for GPs. They said costs were rising as a result of the steady rise in claims inflation alongside the potential huge cost of claims in the future.

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