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Ministers aim to extend 'no-fault' negligence scheme to cover GPs

Sweeping reforms of clinical negligence processes will be extended to cover GPs as soon as the Government's new 'no-fault' compensation scheme has been piloted in hospitals.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said last week he wanted GPs covered by his proposed NHS Redress scheme 'after a suitable period of operation and evaluation' in secondary care.

He plans to consider 'whether GPs should be included from the outset' before finalising the proposals later this year.

But medical defence experts said it was difficult to see how the scheme could encompass GPs, who have been left out of the initial implementation because claims against them are defended and settled by defence organisations rather than the NHS Litigation Authority.

The NHS Redress scheme will offer 'no-fault' compensation to patients harmed by substandard NHS care in a bid to avert costly court cases and reduce tension between doctors and patients.

The four-pronged scheme will provide: an investigation of the incident; an explanation and apology to the patient; remedial treatment, rehabilitation and care where needed; and compensation of up to £30,000.

Patients will be free to reject the scheme and bring a negligence claim instead.

The scheme will place a 'duty of candour' on doctors to tell patients when they make errors ­ but clinicians would be exempt from disciplinary action when reporting adverse incidents to encourage a culture of openness.

Dr Sherry Williams, deputy director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society, said it was

'impossible to predict' how the scheme might work for GPs.

The Medical Defence Union welcomed plans to include GPs but said it was 'too early' to say how this could work. Dr Christine Tomkins, director of professional services, said: 'The principles are all applicable to primary care. How it might work for GPs will be interesting. We are pleased any difficulties will be ironed out in hospitals.'

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