Speaking at the Royal College of GPs conference in Liverpool, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced that the Department of Health (DH) is to work with GP representatives on developing a new state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs to protect them from the costs of clinical negligence claims.
Jeremy Hunt said the scheme could provide a more stable and affordable system for GPs, with financially sustainable cover “for future, and potentially historic, claims arising from the delivery of NHS services”, though he added “transfer of historic liabilities from Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) to a new scheme would be dependent on satisfactory negotiation with the MDOs.”
The Medical Defence Union has immediately responded to the health secretary’s statement by announcing a 50% reduction in GP indemnity costs. The BMA called for rapid progress on the scheme, which it insisted should cover all GPs, however they are working.
It is predicted that the scheme will provide clinical negligence cover to individual GPs but will also provide cover for practice staff and other medical professionals working in the provision of connected services.
However, the scheme will not indemnify individual GPs in relation to private work, coroners’ cases or matters relating to professional regulation such as General Medical Council (GMC) investigations.
It is likely that individual GPs will wish to continue with private indemnity arrangements to cover such eventualities. It is also important to note that the announcement relates solely to GPs practising in England and does not extend to the devolved nations.
The DH said that it had worked with GPs and the four MDOs that currently provide GPs with indemnity cover, and agreed that any new scheme should
DH added that the scheme will need careful negotiation and “will take at least 12 to 18 months to establish.
The chair of BMA GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey said that the commitment to provide state-backed indemnity cover and the Government’s recognition of the recruitment and indemnity-cost crises in general practice is a particularly welcome step.
He further added that the General practice is facing unprecedented pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and a workforce crisis that has left many parts of the country without enough GPs to treat patients.
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