GPs should not be frogmarched into 'untested' state indemnity deal, says MDO

GPs should not be forced to switch to the 'untested' state-backed indemnity model due to take effect next April - and should have the right to keep their existing indemnity deal at no extra cost, the MDDUS has said.

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny (Photo: MDDUS)
MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny (Photo: MDDUS)

The medical defence organisation (MDO) has called for GPs to have the right to opt out of the state-backed indemnity scheme without losing out financially.

In a statement published on Thursday, the MDDUS revealed that it had 'continually highlighted to the DHSC through all our discussions the need for GPs and practices to have the right to choose their MDO service and not be financially disadvantaged if they want to opt out' of the state-backed indemnity scheme.

The government and MDOs have been clear that GPs will need to maintain cover for non-NHS work, representation at inquests, GMC hearings and disciplinary investigations, and for advice and support - which will not be covered by the state-backed scheme.

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What we know so far about state-backed GP indemnity

State-backed GP indemnity, like the scheme for hospital doctors, will simply cover the cost of negligence claims - the key factor behind soaring costs for the profession in recent years.

But the MDDUS criticised the government proposal to split handling of claims from the wider service currently delivered by MDOs.

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said the existing model was seen as the gold standard because it handled claims, regulation, inquests and discipline comprehensively and involved doctors in 'key decisions on their claims'.

He argued: 'Writing MDOs out of a claims service is a false economy – and a threat to GPs’ professional standing. That’s why we expect the state-backed schemes in Wales and England to preserve these principles. If the government wants to offer a simple claims-only service, then GPs should be able to choose the integrated MDO service at no financial disbenefit.'

Putting GPs first

A further statement from the MDDUS said: 'We still do not know if there will be choice in future or if the scheme will be compulsory. We believe that GPs should make their own decisions and not be frog-marched into a claims-only scheme which may not meet all their needs and which may put the interest of the taxpayer ahead of that of the doctor.'

MDOs have repeatedly criticised the government's failure to provide comprehensive detail on how the state-backed indemnity scheme will work. The scheme was first announced in October 2017 - more than a year ago - and is due to take effect from 1 April 2019.

Mr Kenny added: 'There are so many questions that remain unanswered. Planning blight followed by breakneck implementation is hardly a recipe for success.

'We believe this is a high-risk approach which fails to protect GPs’ professional reputation, removes choice and, as independent contractors, GPs should have the option to choose an integrated indemnity and advice product as compared to the state-backed scheme.'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The BMA is committed to working with the DHSC to provide a comprehensive indemnity scheme for all GPs and practice staff from April 2019. We are keen to ensure that the state-backed scheme is managed in a manner that will be supportive of GPs and their frontline staff and will recognise and support their professionalism.'

Another leading provider of GP indemnity also hit out at the delay in providing full detail on how the state-backed scheme would work.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: 'The clock is ticking. Far greater detail needs to be worked through and shared with GPs before we will feel comfortable that the new scheme will provide GPs with the right level of support if they receive a claim for clinical  negligence. We are continuing to push for detailed information to be shared with GPs.'

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