RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said ‘no GP should ever be out of pocket due to indemnity costs’ and the government must commit to increasing funding ‘at the earliest opportunity’.
Indemnity is already a significant burden to GPs, she warned, and any further increase – for example due to the new discount rate for personal injury claims – would come as a ‘serious blow’.
GPs have started to receive from last month their share of a £30m fund to cover the rise in indemnity costs over 2016/17, and are set to do so again from next April.
Health minister David Mowat has suggested that the scheme could continue beyond this date, but no concete plans have been announced.
GP indemnity costs
Dr Stokes-Lampard said: ‘No individual GP should have to shoulder the spiralling cost of higher indemnity bills, nor should GP practices be forced to divert money into plugging this shortfall when it should be ploughed directly into frontline patient care.
‘Unlike hospital doctors, GPs have to pay the entire cost of purchasing medical indemnity out of their own pockets, and without urgent action this situation has the potential to become a crisis, with devastating effects for the profession and, ultimately, our patients.
‘The college has been raising this issue with politicians and medical defence organisations for some time – indeed, finding a long-term solution to the rising costs of indemnity is one of the six "asks" in our college manifesto for the next government.
‘The government has already given a clear and firm commitment that no doctor will be worse off a result of the new discount rate and we call on all political parties to pledge to honour this promise at the earliest possible opportunity, so that GPs are not faced with the prospect of having to pay massively higher bills.
‘We need urgent reform of a system that is becoming increasingly unsustainable and is getting in the way of GPs doing their jobs.’