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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPC says PGEA ruling does not apply to all

Your story on medical indemnity 'Ministers to consider overhaul of medical indemnity for GPs' (News, March 5) stated that GPs who are members of the Medical Defence Union have 'discretionary cover' and that the 'insurer can decide not to support a claim'.

I am pleased to reassure MDU members, who include over half of the UK's GPs, that they are each provided with an insurance policy, which guarantees them assistance with medical negligence claims up to £10 million. In addition MDU members also have access to all the traditional discretionary benefits of membership such as 24-hour medicolegal advice, assistance with GMC complaints and disciplinary matters, and risk management advice.

 This still means, however, that a large number of GPs are members of other medical defence organisations, which are not insurers. They only have access to discretionary indemnity, which offers no such guarantees, with doctors only finding out after they have been sued, whether they will be assisted.

 It is our view that discretionary indemnity does not provide an acceptable degree of certainty and protection for doctors or their patients in the current volatile medicolegal climate. Lawyers, architects and accountants working in the UK all have to be insured, so I was pleased to read in the same article that the Government may be planning a consultation to bring doctors' indemnity arrangements in line with other UK professionals.

Since we started providing each of our UK members with an insurance policy in 2000, the number of MDU members has risen by well over 20 per cent. This suggests our members appreciate the security our insurance policy provides and that our subscriptions remain competitive.

 You would not insure your car on a discretionary basis, nor would the Government allow you to find out, only after an accident, whether your indemnifier would pay up. Surely it is equally important that all doctors and their patients know, rather than hope, that compensation for harm suffered from proven clinical negligence will be available.

Dr Matthew Lee

Medicolegal Adviser

Medical Defence Union

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