LMCs must demand clarity on state-backed indemnity deal, warns MDU

GP leaders have been urged to demand government funding to cover all historic claims as part of the state-backed indemnity deal announced last month by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The Medical Defence Union, one of the UK's leading medical defence organisations, has written to LMCs ahead of this week's England LMCs conference. The organisation has called on GP leaders to use the conference to demand a government commitment to provide cover for 'all historic liabilities' under a state-backed indemnity deal that is now being developed.

After a landmark announcement by Mr Hunt that the government would provide a state-backed indemnity deal in a bid to tackle soaring costs for general practice, the MDU announced a dramatic change to the package of cover it would offer to GPs.

The MDU announced it would slash the cost of GP indemnity by half this year by moving from occurrence based cover to a claims-paid model of cover that would operate as a transitional system until the state-backed deal took off.

Read more: What we know about state GP indemnity plans

The government warned that this could force GPs to pay run-off cover for the rest of their lives, but the MDU argues the government scheme should include this support. The MDU’s letter asks LMCs to band together in a ‘united effort’ to ensure that the government scheme ‘includes all historic liabilities’ – including covering the cost of run-off cover for doctors on their revised indemnity package.

The MDU points out that when the NHS indemnity scheme for hospital doctors was introduced in 1990, it included historical liabilities, and it is only fair this happens for GPs too.

Delegates at the inaugural English LMCs conference are set to discuss a three-part motion on indemnity on Friday, which will call upon GPC England to ensure that NHS England continues to reimburse GPs for rises in indemnity costs and to demand that the government introduces a system of indemnity comparable with secondary care.

It also proposes surveying GPs to consider withdrawing their out-of-hours commitment if direct reimbursement for out-of-hours indemnity is not provided.

The motions are likely to have been written before the health secretary's announcement, and further debates could yet be tabled on the state-backed indemnity plan.

GP workforce

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: ‘High indemnity prices are already forcing GPs to leave the profession or cut down their work. This is hurting them and making it harder to provide services to patients. The MDU’s solution is to provide real help now – when our members need it most.

‘The MDU’s transitional benefits membership provides help by way of a reduced subscription to the profession at a time when GPs are facing unaffordable subscription rates.

‘Our considered decision to charge a lower rate for transitional benefits reflects our expectation that the government will have to pick up the cost of historic claims to deliver on its published commitments to GPs and to avert a meltdown of the service.’

Conference motion in full

That conference believes that the rising cost of medical indemnity in England is making general practice unsustainable and adding to the workforce crisis in England, and calls upon GPC England to:

(i) ensure that inflationary reimbursements made by NHS England are recurrent and made directly to the individual GP or practice that is paying the indemnity

(ii) demand that the government must introduce a system of indemnity comparable with secondary care which covers all GPs on the performers list and all NHS GP practice staff.

(iii) survey GPs to consider withdrawing their out-of-hours commitment if direct reimbursement for their out-of-hours indemnity is not provided

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