GPs call for NHS indemnity as costs reach 'unaffordable' heights

Nine in 10 GPs would like the NHS to fund the cost of GP indemnity, a survey has suggested, as the NHS revealed its spend on clinical negligence claims for 2016/17 rose to a new high of £1.7bn.

The MDU has warned that GPs ‘simply cannot afford’ professional indemnity as costs continue to rise higher.

A poll by the medical defence organisation of 879 GPs found 88% want the NHS to fund their indemnity costs, as it does for their hospital colleagues.

The findings come as the NHS revealed it spent a record £1.7bn on clinical negligence claims in 2016/17, a £219m and 15% increase over the year before, according to figures published on Thursday in the annual report and accounts of NHS Resolution, which runs NHS indemnity schemes.

Rising indemnity costs

This amount is twice as high as the amount it spent six years before, in 2010/11.

Almost two fifths of this was spent on legal costs, prompting medico-legal group the MPS to reissue its call for legal reform to limit the amount lawyers can charge in fees.

Dr Matthew Lee, MDU professional services director, said: ‘The spiralling cost of claims is something society cannot afford and neither can our GP members, who pay for increasing costs via their professional indemnity.

‘We are already seeing large GP claims heading towards settlement at £15-20m. If GPs aren’t supported, many won’t be able to pay the increased indemnity costs. There would be a crisis in the GP workforce that which would leave patients at risk.

GP crisis

‘The government needs to act fast to protect GPs from further indemnity cost increases as it is facing a looming crisis. GPs clearly want the same arrangements for NHS indemnity their hospital colleagues enjoy.’

Bristol GP Dr Shaba Nabi said: ‘I know the reason for the increasing costs is because of rising clinical negligence claims, but I think it's very unfair that GPs, who are working for the NHS, are treated differently from hospital doctors who have NHS indemnity.

‘I can't understand this. I would like to see NHS indemnity for GPs. Covering our inflationary rises in indemnity costs is not enough. We need to be covered in full to stop people leaving general practice.’

Emma Hallinan, director of claims at the MPS, said: ‘Legal reform is required to strike a balance between compensation that is reasonable, but also affordable – this includes the introduction of a limit on future care costs based on a tariff agreed by an expert group and fixed recoverable costs for claims up £250,000 to stop lawyers charging disproportionate fees.’

She added: 'While the report does not cover GP claims, the challenges posed by the rising costs of clinical negligence affect the healthcare system as a whole.

‘When the cost of clinical negligence increases, the cost of indemnity must also increase to reflect this. As a not-for-profit membership organisation we have an obligation to ensure that we collect sufficient subscription income to meet the expected future costs of claims against members so we are in a position to defend their interests into the future.

‘We recognise the pressure this places on our GP members and this is why we have launched our Striking a Balance campaign – to tackle the root of the problem.’

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