MDOs hit out at 'unacceptable' one-year wait for detail of GP indemnity scheme

Medical defence organisations have criticised the government's 'unacceptable' failure to reveal how state-backed GP indemnity will work, almost a year after it announced plans to roll out a scheme by April 2019.

GP indemnity detail slow to emerge (Photo: iStock.com/pic_studio)
GP indemnity detail slow to emerge (Photo: iStock.com/pic_studio)

Ahead of the annual RCGP conference 2019 in Glasgow this week, defence organisations called for more detail now - warning the scheme was 'too important to get wrong'.

Plans for a state-backed GP indemnity scheme were announced at last year's RCGP conference, as then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that soaring costs were forcing GPs out of the profession. The BMA says indemnity costs for GPs rose 50% between 2010 and 2016, estimating last year that GPs pay around £8,000 per year on average - although for some costs are significantly higher.

GPs and defence organisations have been calling for more detail since the scheme was announced, but very little new information has emerged over the past 12 months.

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What we know so far about plans for state-backed GP indemnity
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In charts: Why GPs need state-backed indemnity

In September, GPonline revealed that defence organisations were in crunch talks with the government over an 'existing liabilities scheme' that could define whether thousands of GPs who have moved to cheaper 'claims made' indemnity deals since Mr Hunt's announcement will face additional bills for 'run-off' cover. The BMA said recently that more detail could emerge in the coming weeks.

A May deadline for an update was missed by the government, and a statement in June confirmed only that ministers remained committed to rolling out state-backed indemnity by April 2019.

Meanwhile, GPonline reported earlier this year that almost half of GPs could quit over the next five years if the indemnity deal failed to meet their expectations.

Rob Hendry, medical director at MPS said the profession had welcomed plans for a state-backed indemnity scheme as 'a major boost to general practice and a practical to way to support GPs'.

GP indemnity plans

But he warned: 'On the eve of this year’s RCGP conference - a year down the line since the announcement and less than six months to go before it is due to be launched - GPs have been provided with very little further information about the government’s plans.

'There is a pressing need for GPs to be provided with more information on what the scheme will cover and how the government will ensure a smooth transition to the state-backed scheme. This detail needs to be shared now.

'We will continue to press government for more detail of their plans and for key decisions to be shared with GPs. With so little time left before the scheme is due to be launched it is unacceptable that there is so little detail available - this is too important a change to get wrong.'

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: 'MDDUS has been pushing the government hard to put some meat on the bones since the initial announcement a year ago. However, as it stands, much of what is proposed remains unknown and information has been slow in coming out about what exactly is proposed, how it will be run and who will run it.'

Rising costs

He criticised the government for failing to tackle the root causes of rising indemnity costs, and warned that 'savings to individual GPs may also not be as significant as is being made out in some quarters'.

An MDU spokesperson said: 'Our members have told us they are encouraged by the government’s commitment to bring in the new state scheme, but would welcome more information on the precise terms and conditions as soon as this can be provided.

'GP are understandably asking questions about how the scheme will operate, including what work, and which staff will be included and what the financial impact might be in order to plan for the future.'

A spokesperson for the DHSC said: 'We know GPs face disproportionally high costs when purchasing clinical negligence cover and that’s why we’re committed to introducing a state-backed indemnity scheme from April next year.

'We’re continuing to work with the MDOs, BMA, RCGP and NHS England to develop a scheme that suits all parties and will make more information available as soon as we can.'

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