Full indemnity must be mandatory for GPs

GPs could face a 12 per cent hike in indemnity fees if the government adopts recommendations from the Medical Defence Union (MDU) that all doctors should be fully indemnified.

It is currently legal, though not advisable, for GPs to practise without being indemnified. However, a proposal from the DoH, out for consultation until January 31, would make indemnity cover mandatory.

The MDU believes that this proposal does not go far enough because because some medical defence organisations offer discretionary cover.

The MDU is the only organisation to offer GPs an insurance policy for all medical negligence claims. It wants this full cover to be mandatory.

Otherwise, there is a possibility that an organisation would decline to assist a doctor with a claim and the patient would not be compensated.

Full indemnity cover from the MDU currently costs a full-time GP £4,470, whereas discretionary indemnity with the Medical Protection Society (MPS) costs £3,950.

Dr Hugh Stewart, a medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said: 'Over 40 per cent of doctors rely on discretionary indemnity.'

MPS policy director Dr Gerard Panting supported compulsory indemnity but said there were arguments against insurance-based full indemnity cover.

He said that for MPS customers, as long as the GP was indemnified at the time of the incident, the cover was not time-dependent.

He added that for a full-indemnity insurance-based system you had to be a policy holder throughout proceedings, which could take up to 20 years after retirement.

The DoH consultation paper is at www.dh.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/12/38/25/04123825.pdf

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