New GPs could delay starting work amid doubts over state indemnity

Hundreds of GP trainees due to qualify next month could delay starting work because of doubts over state-backed indemnity, the BMA has warned.

(Photo: iStock.com/sturti)
(Photo: iStock.com/sturti)

GP leaders demanded more information and guidance 'immediately' from the government on how the state-backed indemnity deal due to begin from April 2019 will work.

They warn that with most of the cohort of GP trainees who began training in 2015 set to qualify in August, many could choose not to take up posts in general practice because of confusion over different indemnity packages on offer from defence organisations ahead of the start of the state scheme.

BMA GP trainee subcommittee chair Dr Tom Micklewright told GPonline: 'It is incredibly difficult for these GP trainees to choose a deal, and we are hearing of many struggling to understand the difference between claims-based and occurrence-based schemes that providers are offering while we await details of the final state-backed programme.

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'More information and guidance needs to be made available immediately, especially as some providers are offering transitional indemnity ahead of the state scheme. Many trainees are drawn towards these schemes due to their reduced cost, but they carry important implications for their future indemnity, with trainees often unaware of the important implications they have for the future.

'The lack of run-off cover, for example, could place them unwittingly at risk of being unprotected and unsupported in the event of claims made later in their career, years after an alleged incident. In theory, this could lead to some trainees delaying work as newly-qualified GPs, particularly in areas which draw high indemnity premiums, such as out-of-hours work, until more is known about the state-backed offer.'

GPonline revealed on Monday that with nine months to go until the state scheme begins, more than nine out of 10 GPs say they do not have enough information to make crucial decisions about which indemnity package to take out in the interim.

Indemnity costs

Polling by this website also found that more than a quarter of full-time GPs now pay more than £10,000 a year for indemnity, while 62% pay more than £7,500.

Comments from several GP trainees responding to the GPonline poll back up the concerns raised by Dr Micklewright.

One said: 'I have researched this extensively. I am due to become a fully-qualified GP next month. I am totally torn between saving money upfront and risking unknown run-off costs, and paying for occurrence based cover. The government's silence on this despite their promises of an update in May is extremely frustrating.'

The trainee faced a choice between an offer of around £2,500 a year for claims-based cover for eight sessions a week, and four times this amount for occurrence-based cover.

GP trainees

Another trainee responding to the poll said: 'As a GP registrar qualifying in August, very frustrating to have so much conflicting info about what is next for indemnity.'

One GP about to qualify said indemnity costs were 'ridiculously high', adding 'I would not join a practice as a salaried GP unless my indemnity was covered by them as I just can't afford it'.

Another trainee said: 'I hope that at my stage of training I will not be put off by the rising costs of indemnity - it will significantly affect which job I take in order to cover expenses.'

A DH spokesman told GPonline: '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 NHSE to develop a scheme that suits all parties and will make more information available as soon as we can.'

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