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GP indemnity lawyers want fixed legal fees for small claims

A leading medical indemnity provider is calling for fixed costs to be introduced for small value legal claims against GPs.

The Medical Protection Society has made the call amid concerns that the current system sometimes forces GPs to pay claimants more to cover their legal costs than they have been awarded in damages upon conclusion of a trial.

As an example, the MPS cited a recent case where a delayed skin cancer diagnosis saw a patient awarded damages of £30,000 but the GP in question was forced to pay £42,000 to cover the claimant’s legal fees throughout the five-month process.

The MPS is one of a number of defence organisations to increase subs in recent years, blaming increased levels of litigation.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said full-time UK GPs are ‘twice as likely’ to be sued in 2015 compared to seven years ago.

Commenting on the calls for system reform, he said: ‘It is not unusual for us to see legal costs far exceed patient compensation in small value claims.

‘This is simply not right. We want to see fixed costs for small value claims to ensure that legal costs do not dwarf compensation payments, and the money spent on patient care instead.’

The spiralling cost of medical indemnity fees, particularly for out-of-hours work, saw NHS England pilot a new risk-sharing scheme this year.

Readers' comments (10)

  • This is simply immoral. The medical profession has been hijacked by a parasitic legal profession that has become adept at exploiting the limitations of the NHS to maximize profits. These disproportionate awards make us all poorer in the long run.

    UK Medical litigation should be far more tightly regulated and the government should have been indemnifying GPs through the NHS years ago. Most simple claims would be better dealt with by a no-fault national insurance system. The situation is clearly way out of control and is contributing to the current recruitment crisis particularly in out of hours. In the long run, if nothing is done it will threaten the very existence of the NHS.

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  • Simple solution - allow a counter claim. If the case was found to be in favour of GP, then the defendant should be able to claim for slander, psychological distress and loss in earnings. It's only just, if the claimants allegations are shown to be incorrect.

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  • So a sensible idea to help GP's, help recruitment and retention and mental health of GP's. How likely is this to happen? Pigs flying much more likely. Don't hold your breath.

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  • Medical indemnity should be wholly covered by NHS because with two or three monopolists in the country, you really have no choice but to pay 1500 to 2000 more every year. Nice way to threaten and soften doctors for next increases by articles and reports telling them how vulnerable they are to being sued. No better way to disperse the profession then unregulated increases in premiums.

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    Remove all lawyers from process.

    Have an independent panel of experts look at fact of the case over a short period of time and make a judgement and award appropriate compensation if required.

    Running costs slashed compared to expensive court processes, less money bled out of NHS budgets for care.

    Only the most serious cases make it to a full court process ie cases where death caused by negligence.

    Leaves no incentive for the ambulance chasers to stay involved.

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  • Perhaps rather than strike action, it would be a better idea to refuse to pay indemnity fees en-mass. It simply wouldn't be worth suing GPs as most of us would be declared bankrupt within the first week of court costs and the legal industry would have to choose another target.

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  • don't blame the lawyers blame those that negotiate our contract, blame the BMA, RCGP for what they do best i.e. nothing, and blame the GMC.

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  • Actually the public and lawyers are to be blamed.

    My colleague settled out of court recently - indemnifier suggested this as it would be cheaper and there was a chance of loss. Patient's solicitors charged the costs x11 more then the actual payout to patient as damages.

    Who's the winner here? Certainly not the GP.

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  • 11.20 I think there needs to be a change in law to prevent MDOs refusing to defend defensible cases. Repeatedly capitulating in the face of inflated costs is a bit like paying ransom demands to terrorists, it just encourages them. This is morally wrong and the patients are the ultimate loosers.

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  • very well said 0220

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