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Thousands of GPs could have to change their indemnity arran- gements from next year under proposals put out to consultation by the Government.

Plans to reform the Medical Act 1983 propose making insurance compulsory for all doctors to guarantee patients are compensated in the event of harm.

The GMC, which will enforce the requirement, will then have to decide whether discretionary indemnity can continue.

Both the Medical Protection Society (MPS) and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) are mutual societies offering discretionary indemnity and can decide not to support a claim.

The Medical Defence Union provides an insurance policy.

Dr Gerard Panting, director of policy at the MPS, predicted there would be no change for the majority of GPs who already had some sort of cover.

But Mary-Lou Nesbitt, head of Government and external relations for the MDU, said there was still a 'big question' over whether discretionary indemnity would be acceptable.

She said: 'A lot of the other health care regulators have decided that discretionary is not acceptable.' Regulators for dentists, chiropractors and osteopaths have recently banned discretionary policies.

Dr Panting said the MPS would have to look at becoming an insurance company if the GMC took the same step.

But he warned the move would almost certainly cause problems for maintaining

'occurrence coverage' when doctors stopped practising.

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