Nearly half of GPs could quit if state indemnity deal fails to deliver

Nearly half of GPs could quit over the next five years if the state-backed indemnity deal set to begin from April 2019 fails to meet their expectations, a GPonline poll reveals.

GPs demand answers on indemnity (Photo: iStock)
GPs demand answers on indemnity (Photo: iStock)

A total of 46% of GPs who took part in a GPonline survey said the state-backed indemnity deal would play a significant role in determining whether they remained in the profession over the next five years.

But with less than nine months to go before the deal is due to begin, GPs hit out at the lack of information made public about how it will work. Of more than 400 GPs who responded to the poll, 81% said they were dissatisfied with the lack of detail available.

An overwhelming 92% of GPs said they did not have enough information about the state-backed deal to choose between different indemnity packages on offer from medical defence organisations. A large proportion of GPs renew their indemnity deals in July and August - meaning many are deciding now what cover to take out between now and the start of the state deal.

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What we know so far about the state-backed indemnity deal

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline that the survey findings confirmed that the state-backed indemnity deal was 'an essential factor in addressing the current crisis in GP recruitment and retention'.

Plans for a state-backed indemnity scheme were announced last October by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt as he struggled to reverse a decline in GP numbers that has seen the full-time equivalent GP workforce drop by more than 1,000 since the government pledged to increase it by 5,000 by 2021.

Annual indemnity costs for GPs rose 50% to an average of £7,900 in the six years from 2010 to 2016, according to a survey of nearly 4,500 GPs carried out in 2016 by the BMA on behalf of the government - and costs have continued to rise since then.

Dr Vautrey said: 'Delivering a state-backed indemnity scheme is an essential factor in addressing the current crisis in GP recruitment and retention.

'The government's commitment to introduce a scheme that covers all GPs delivering NHS services was in response to our calls to address the current unsustainable and unfair indemnity arrangements for GPs and it's vital that this is put in place by April 2019 as promised. Negotiations about the detail are ongoing and between now and April 2019 it is essential that all GPs ensure they continue to have full indemnity cover.'

GPs responding to the poll made clear that the detail of the indemnity deal could determine whether they had a future in the profession. One said: 'If they don't have a robust effective crown indemnity I am very unlikely to continue to be a GP in this country.'

Many hit out at the current costs, with GPs warning they had been forced to drop out-of-hours work or refuse shifts because of indemnity costs. One GP said: 'In my seven years as a GP I have seen my indemnity go up by £1,000 per year while my income has not changed to reflect this increase.'

Soaring costs

One GP said her indemnity costs consumed around 25% of her take-home pay, meaning she was 'effectively on half the salary my gross would imply'. Another GP said his annual indemnity bill for working 40 hours a week out-of-hours was £18,500 - and that indemnity costs had forced him out of London.

Trainees due to qualify as GPs next month revealed that they were unclear how to decide what indemnity package they should choose. One trainee was 'totally torn' between the different options available and condemned the government's failure to provide more information as 'extremely frustrating'.

A DH spokesman said: 'We know that 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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