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Independents' Day

DH says it cannot guarantee that state-backed GP indemnity will slash costs

Exclusive Any reductions in GP indemnity costs 'will depend on negotiations' and cannot yet be guaranteed, the Department of Health has told Pulse.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced earlier this month that the Government is to launch a scheme by 2019 which is 'more affordable' and 'more reliable' for GPs than the current system for clinical negligence cover.

But despite this, when probed by Pulse for a guarantee to the profession that costs would be brought down by the scheme, a DH spokesperson would only say that 'this is a matter for negotiations with MDOs and through the GP contract’.

BMA GP Committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, who leads negotiations on indemnity on behalf of the profession, said he understood that the Government was 'being very cautious about making promises that they may have to alter' as ongoing discussions progress.

However, he added: 'But our position is that not only must any future rises be covered by the Government-financed part of the scheme, but actually even what we are paying at the moment is not sustainable.

'So there must, in some way, be an overall reduction in the financial burden to the profession as it currently stands.'

Dr Sanford-Wood went on to warn that unless the cost burden was brought down, the Government would fail in its ambition to resolve the GP workforce crisis.

He said: 'As a junior doctor you have a choice of going into a career in a hospital specialty where there’s no indemnity, or another career where you automatically lose £10,000 of your income - before you even start.

'We have to level that playing field and that has been our argument to DH. If you are serious about solving the workforce crisis in general practice then there has to be substantial movement on offsetting some of the current costs through state funding.'

The BMA has previously warned that indemnity premium increases expected this autumn - in light of potential changes to the discount rate, which could increase the size of claims payouts - threatened to make working as a GP 'untenable'.

But the announcement of a state-backed scheme appears to have caused confusion among defence organisations, which are taking a varying approach to the cost of subscriptions in the interim period until it comes in.

The MDU immediately announced that it would halve fees from November, although its move was criticised by rival MDOs when it transpired that its new offering did not include run-off cover.

The MDU in turn said it was 'wrong' to continue to offer occurrence-based indemnity cover without applying the cost increase related to the discount rate change - which its GP members could not afford.

What we know so far about the Government's GP indemnity scheme

The Department of Health has published a factsheet providing details on how it intends the scheme to function.

This sets out that:

  • It would be a practice policy, providing cover to ‘providers of GP services (e.g. GP contractors)’ and out-of-hours providers;
  • This would ‘include the activities of practice staff’ working in the delivery of GMS, PMS and APMS services;
  • It would only provide ‘clinical negligence’ cover. GPs would want their own indemnity for professional and regulatory issues such as GMC proceedings and coroners’ courts;
  • A decision is yet to be made on whether the scheme could be extended to GPs in prison health or armed forces;
  • DH wants a scheme in place ‘as quickly as possible’ but it is likely to take 12 to 18 months.


Readers' comments (16)

  • That sliver of hope lasted a long time.

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  • A bold, big announcement and then a "slightly" less bold deal. Hardly a surprise!!
    If there is a crisis in GPland isn't 12-18months a little long to wait?

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  • tin can kicked down the road

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Thats another two years worth of junior doctors who will steer clear of general practice until the unknown becomes known and probably sh*te.

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  • Needs to be either Crown indemnity or full reimbursement of NHS cover and way before 2019

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  • Whats the use of that state backed indemnity if it is not going to reduce cost of GP Indemnity?. Looks like this government is playing some games and as usual our leaders will start singing praises of this sh... government and continue in present state for another 2 years. God knows when we will grow spine and show some resistance.

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  • Because of the multiple problems general practice deals with in a 10 minute period of time, the risk of litigation is far higher than in hospital medicine. So premiums will continue to rise. How does that go with STP and the expectation that more hospital work will be pushed into general practice?

    My opinion is that it’s part of the governments push to force all GPs to become salaried and at that stage crown indemnity will be brought in as the carrot

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  • Well it is going to reduce the costs but it is clearly going to have string attached:

    8-8 opening
    50% appointment booked online
    Skype consultation
    Emails consultations
    Plus the other pointless flavour of the year popular political ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with providing good General Practice Medical Care.

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  • it sounds as if it will be a state run indemnity scheme passing all the costs onto the GPs but the state is the "insurer" backing the scheme instead of other insurance companies / Lloyds.
    The point about it being £10,000 off the salary compared to hospital Docs is well made. I presume DDRB (if they were independent) would take that into account comparing a GP's income to a consultant's salary.

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I wrote before, unless one sees an official statement from the Treasury, one cannot believe what the health secretary said .
    ‘State-backed’ could have a lot of meanings . I think we are all too familiar of these technocratic, abstract terminologies by now .

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