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GP indemnity fees spiral out of control with 26% rise last year

Exclusive ‘Out-of-control’ GP indemnity costs have increased by more than a quarter in a year, show the results of a Pulse survey.

Indemnity fees rose by an average of 25.5% in the past 12 months leading up to November last year, according to an analysis of responses from more than 900 UK GPs.

But the increase could be even higher, as a large number of GPs said their fees had decreased because they had had to reduce the number of shifts they worked.

More than one in 10 respondents said their fees had more than doubled, and more than a quarter saw hikes in excess of 40% in the past year.

Medical defence organisations (MDOs) said that the figures were not representative, and they were seeing rises of around 10%. 

However, these figures currently represent the best estimate so far of the rising burden of legal indemnity, as medical defence bodies have refused to provide comparable figures to Pulse.

Dr Zishan Syed, a GP partner in West Kent said his indemnity costs have increased by 60% in the past 12 months and said the MDOs needed to do more to challenge individuals who engage in campaigns of vexatious complaints against clinicians.

He added: ’Furthermore, the fact that they pick and choose what case to defend can leave a GP who has paid year after year of fees in the lurch with no defence.’

Dr Graham Scott, a GP locum in Warrington, said his fees had more than doubled, adding: ’‘I think that it is out of control and unfair. It needs serious regulation.’

Dr Ishwar Bhatia, a GP locum in Ipswich and East Suffolk, said: ’Compared to sessions worked, the amount has increased to double. A regular four sessions in surgery cost £5,100, and out of hours is more.’

Several GPs commented it was ’not worth increasing hours of work’ as the cost of indemnity was so high and they felt helpless to question fee rises.

A GP who did not want to be named said: ’There are no clear understandable rules for charges and because I don’t know how they work it out, I don’t have evidence for whether the charges are correct or not. I can’t complain as it is compulsory and we can’t work without indemnity.’

However, another GP who also wanted to remain anonymous, who saw a 20% increase in fees in the past year, said: ’When you’ve been through a complaint you realise how worthwhile it is, the support you get.’

The Medical Defence Union disputed the survey findings, claiming that average member subscription increases were lower, at around 10% a year. A spokesperson said: ’Long term, GP claims inflation has been running at over 10% year on year. Inevitably, this affects the subscriptions we need to collect to ensure our members’ peace of mind. Average subscription increases for our members reflect these trends rather than the figures your survey found.’

MDDUS also said most of its increases were smaller than 25%. A spokesperson said: ’MDDUS were able to limit subscription increases for the vast majority of our GP members to well below 20% this year. The numbers seeing increases at the level you quote were small – far smaller than the number of our Scottish members whose subscriptions were held stable.’

NHS England recently said it would reimburse GPs who take on extra out-of-hours shifts over winter under a temporary £2m scheme. A Pulse survey last year revealed that a year earlier half of GPs were already turning down out-of-hours shifts because the cover is too expensive.

The last LMCs Conference voted in favour of a motion for all GP indemnity costs to be covered all year round and the Government has looked into capping legal costs for small value claims.

How much have your indemnity fees changed in the past 12 months?

Increased by 100%: 3%

Increased by 80%: 3%

Increased by 60%: 5%

Increased by 40%: 14%

Increased by 20%: 28%

Increased by 10%: 15%

Stayed the same: 8%

Decreased by 10%: 1%

Decreased by 20%: 1%

Decreased by 40%: 0.5%

Decreased by 60%: 0.5%

Decreased by 80%: 0%

Don’t know: 190 21%

Total number of respondents: 922

The survey was launched on 26 October 2015, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 20 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 922 GPs answered this question.

Readers' comments (41)

  • Took Early Retirement

    No fault system like NZ? However, that would disadvantage lawyers and an awful lot of MPs are....lawyers in their "spare" time.

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  • Seems like a oligopoly situation to me with a very opache system of charging. I wonder what the Competition and Markets Authority view is?
    Perhaps the BMA GPC could do some work on this, that is if they are not too busy making patients their first priority.

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  • Tony Gu is so so right.
    We Dumkoff GPs have a Contract that mops up all extra work [ when JDs go on strike or A+Es close or whatever]; all extra costs [ Defence, heating .lighting,staff wages or whatever]
    Normal Contractors pass these costs on to the consumer.
    But the GPC [ like its esteemed leader] is so concerned about the patient that they forget the GPs they represent.
    I sincerely hope that MDU, CQC, GMC will kill off the complete nightmare that GP land has become.
    And, the dumbest thing is, we are so needed.
    And the DOH cannot see that.

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  • Charge appropriate high sums for insurance and other reports, four figures.

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  • Doctors are treated like surfs or slaves now, with only a pretence of freedom.
    Why are we forced to give our hard earned cash to litigation costs anyway? If we cannot work in a free system how can we pass the indemnity costs on. At this rate, we will not only be paying to work but for paying for a whole growing legal industry and insurance industry and also patients who want extra money.
    We also are paying directly for a whole mass of other organisations the bloated medical colleges, the gmc and other problem organisation such as cqc (who should have all been sent up in the first space rocket)
    Why bother working here in the uk in the NHS, why should we work to support all these parasitic industries in addition to working untold extra UNPAID hours to make up the staff shortages in the NHS.
    This is disgusting and immoral. We need to stand up for our rights as otherwise we cannot support ourselves or our families in any way.
    I have walked and I am SO much happier. Reaĺly! It is a hard step to make and it is very emotional to make changes like this as being a doctor is fundamental to our very identity as we have spent our lives getting to where we are.
    But the world is continually changing and to survive and thrive you need to stand back, see a situation as it is and believe your instincts and act on them.
    Incidently in the time it has taken to write this, there have been two adverts on the tv trying to get people with injuries to go to their legal firms for free to see whether they can get compensation, no win no fee.....

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  • Tony Gu,you've taken the words out of my mouth.When I mentioned to a non doctor about all this the reply was "you're paid enough". GPs just don't seem to earn the public's sympathy.In their minds we're failed hospital doctors who are overpaid for what we do.

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  • Hello Madam, I'm Dr Jones, and for the first three minutes of your allotted ten, I work for the Medical Defence Union. Now, what's on this list of yours? A new mole or two yes, and there's the mandatory trip through your fibromyalgia/ibs/depression medications I see, dry eyes this week, there's a new one, oh and these last two are a novelty aren't they? Plantar Fascia hurting, which in no way is related to the last item on your list, your desire to lose a stone of the twenty you hurl about the place. Sure, yes, Little Tyrone can have some Calpol to help wash down his Concerta. And sure, your January audit of the bathroom cabinet means you're in dire need of some Gaviscon, Ventolin and Ibugel while we are at it. Tired all the time you say? You should try this side of the desk love.

    Burned out doesn't get close sometimes. So the prospect of working 2 months of every 12 to pay lawyers really is a kick in the guts. Still, 18 months only to go.....

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  • There's only one solution to this. Crown indemnity for all NHS work. The MDO's can still make a lot from private works, GMC representations etc etc. Why is the BMA not making a case for this pretty soon?

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  • To Anonymous | Other healthcare professional22 Jan 2016 8:32am

    Wow! From the heart and completely on the money!

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  • Can't keep absorbing these rises. Crown indemnity ain't going to happen. Only way forward is to bIte the bullet like the juniors did, anD ditch the contract. They need us more than we need them - start again with a clean slate.

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