The scheme, which will run from 1 October 2018 until 31 March 2019, covers the cost of professional indemnity for any additional extended hours, out-of-hours or unscheduled work taken on by GPs if it is not provided by the employer.
In previous years GPs have accessed the scheme via their medical defence organisation (MDO). The MDO then claimed back reimbursement for these sessions from NHS England.
The scheme funds additional out-of-hours or unscheduled care shifts that are not already covered as part of a GP's existing indemnity arrangements. This year, extended hours sessions will be covered for the first time.
NHS England director of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes said: 'Extra costs can discourage GPs from providing extra out-of-hours or unscheduled care, so NHS England is supporting them to offer additional services, which is not only better for patients – who get more convenient access to care – but also eases the pressure on GPs, A&Es and other frontline NHS services.
'By providing extra indemnity cover, GPs will be able to provide those extra hours without incurring a cost for themselves. It also means out of hours providers have access to GPs to ensure no shifts go unfilled.'
This is the fourth year that NHS England has funded the winter indemnity scheme.
NHS England is still working with the DHSC, the GPC and medical defence organisations to develop a state-backed indemnity scheme, which is expected to be in place by April 2019. A BMA update on the scheme earlier this month suggested that details of the scheme could be revealed 'within weeks'.
Medical Protection’s medical director Rob Hendry said: ’The NHS winter indemnity scheme has played an important role in enabling a well-staffed and flexible workforce during the difficult winter months; we are pleased to see the scheme being rolled out again this year. We know the additional funding will be welcome news for GPs.
‘GPs are keen to understand more about the government’s long term approach. With little more than six months to go before the new state-backed indemnity scheme is due to be launched, we are continuing to press government for more detail on their plans. It is vital that GPs maintain their medical defence membership until the state-backed indemnity scheme is up and running to ensure they have continuous cover against any claims now or in the future.’
MDU professional services director Dr Matthew Lee said: ‘We are really pleased that NHS England has committed to supporting GPs with a further winter indemnity scheme. Last winter, we saw the highest take-up to date with just under 1,000 MDU GPs offering additional sessions of out-of-hours work under the scheme. With this winter’s scheme broadened to include additional "extended access" sessions we anticipate participation this year will be even greater.’