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England left behind on GP vaccine pay

Thousands of GPs could have to change their medical indemnity policies under proposals being drawn up by the Government.

Ministers plan to launch a consultation later this year on making insurance compulsory for all GPs.

It is expected the consultation will also consider whether to end the existing 'discretionary' indemnity provided by the major medical defence bodies.

Such a move would mean GPs would have to prove they had a policy with a commercial insurer to gain a place on the medical register.

The Government is considering the change to bring GPs into line with other independent contractors to the NHS, including chiropractors, osteopaths and dentists.

A consultation on the regulation of dentists recently recommended compulsory insurance, leaving GPs as the only group excluded.

The Department of Health also wants to ensure there is no chance of patients not being able to gain compensation if they were harmed by a GP.

Almost all GPs have indemnity, but under the discretionary cover provided by the Medical Protection Society, Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland and Medical Defence Union the insurer can decide not to support a claim.

Dr Gerard Panting, communications director for the MPS, said he was confident that ministers were concerned only that patients were able to claim compensation and would let mutual organisations continue.

He added: 'If push comes to shove we will have to become an insurance company.'

Dr Panting said subscriptions would initially fall if existing mutual insurers had to become companies, but would then rise to 'four or five times higher'.

Dr Paul Lambden, director of Howden Medical Insurance Services ­ which is planning to launch an insurance scheme for GPs ­ said authorities in the US and Australia had shifted away from discretionary cover provided by mutual societies.

'In view of the changes around the world it's increasingly likely that medical indemnity will be replaced by insurance,' he said.

'If you make insurance mandatory then a mutual society can't provide discretionary indemnity.'

By Ian Cameron

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