Step forward for state-backed GP indemnity as government takes on existing liabilities

Legislation to establish an 'existing liabilities scheme' for general practice was laid before parliament this week in a major step towards completing the shift to state-backed GP indemnity.

State-backed GP indemnity schemes took responsibility across England and Wales from 1 April 2019 for 'future liabilities' - claims relating to events that occurred after that date.

The move - introduced to tackle soaring costs for GPs after indemnity fees spiked by 50% between 2010 and 2016, with some doctors facing five-figure annual bills - has dramatically reduced the financial burden on doctors.

But the transfer of 'existing liabilities' - responsibility for claims arising for incidents that occurred before 1 April 2019 - from medical defence organisations (MDOs) to the state has proven difficult to agree.

Medical indemnity

Only two of the three main providers of medical indemnity for GPs have agreed a deal to transfer existing liabilities to state schemes.

The MDDUS and the MPS have agreed terms for the transfer, but the MDU - which estimates it represents 47% of English GPs - remains locked in a legal battle with the government.

The MDU admitted last year that failure to reach a deal had left it facing 'increased demand' for payouts 'against dwindling funds'.

Under new regulations that will take effect from 6 April 2020 to establish the 'existing liabilities scheme for general practice' (ELSGP), the state will begin to take over provision of medico-legal cover for NHS work carried out before 1 April 2019.

Existing liabilities

GP members of the MDDUS will see cover transfer from the start of the ELSGP scheme, with MPS members set to follow from 1 April 2021. The government confirmed it had yet to reach agreement with the MDU.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: ‘Any agreement we reach with DHSC would need to be fair to all the MDU’s members and we continue to use our best efforts to achieve this. We hope DHSC will engage in sensible discussion to bring an end to this impasse and remain committed to finding an acceptable solution.'

Dr Tomkins said the MDU's members' claims remained 'in the best possible hands'.

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