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Independents' Day

Jeremy Hunt may announce major reform to GP indemnity this week

Exclusive The Government may be about to make a major announcement on GP indemnity at the RCGP annual conference on Thursday, Pulse understands.

Several well-placed sources have confirmed they expect health secretary Jeremy Hunt will use his speech at the conference in Liverpool to announce how he intends to support GPs amid rising costs. 

The Department of Health told Pulse its plans ‘are still to be confirmed’ but didn’t deny an announcement on indemnity was on the cards.

It comes after Pulse delivered a letter signed by more than 300 GPs to Mr Hunt last month calling for full reimbursement of indemnity fees.

GP leaders told Pulse they had made clear that full reimbursement for GPs’ NHS work ‘is the only acceptable solution’ but said health ministers were keeping the content of this week’s announcement under wraps.

The Department of Health has already pledged that it will protect GPs from rises and ‘ensure appropriate funding is available to meet additional costs to GPs'.

But this has caused a stalemate with the major indemnity organisations, saying they have held off on increasing their fees until the Government makes clear how it intends to address spiralling costs.

At the last meeting of NHS England’s board, chief executive Simon Stevens said a ‘very substantial, medium-term GP indemnity solution’ was expected in the ‘not too distant future’.

And sources close to NHS England and the negotiations said they expect something this week.

While no party would share details of the announcement, some GP leaders set out what steps the DH needed to take to avert a crisis.

Chair of the Family Doctor Association Dr Peter Swinyard said that he believed the DH had seemed open to the idea of complete reimbursement for indemnity fees, after the BMA this summer suggested that full reimbursement ‘was on the table’.

He told Pulse: ‘I haven’t had a sneak preview, but we at the FDA along with many others have made it clear to NHS England that the only acceptable solution for GPs is full reimbursement of indemnity costs for the NHS part of their work.’

‘That’s not 100% reimbursement, but certainly for partners it would relate to NHS works, in the same way that hospital consultants don’t pay indemnity for their NHS work.

‘It’s certainly what we’ve been pushing for, and I think we’ve been pushing against a bit of an open door.’

And he added that this should apply to all GPs, telling Pulse: ‘We want it to cover locums as well, because we fear they could be hung out to dry otherwise.’

Solving the indemnity problem

The Government announced last month that it was already looking at how it could reduce some of the costs GPs are facing.

It announced new legislation that would mean a rapid review of the discount rate, the formula for calculating compensation payouts, and potentially avert some rises.

The discount rate changes introduced under the last Conservative government have been at the root of the expected increases to indemnity this year.

And the prospect of a review meant indemnity provider MDDUS pledged not to increase its fees – on top of its already scheduled increases - until next summer.

And NHS England was again forced to offer reimbursement for any GPs picking up additional out-of-hours shifts this winter, despite pledging a long-term solution this year.

But Pulse has shown many GPs have already reduced their sessions due to soaring legal costs.

Ministers in England made a two-year commitment to bear the cost of any indemnity cover increases for GPs and have indicated this will continue past 2019.

But LMC representatives voted in May for GPC to negotiate full reimbursement of indemnity costs for GPs and for any future reimbursement scheme to target individual GPs directly.

Although the push for a long-term solution is taking its time to materialise, the GPC has said that ‘everything is on the table’ in their discussions with the Government, including a state-funded scheme.

Readers' comments (22)

  • The Current Plight of General Practice

    There is a national shortage of doctors and nurses.

    Governments have been lobbied to engineer this situation with the help of media reporting on selected stories.

    General Practice has become a poor career choice at present due to high workload which has dramatically increased in recent years with lowered pay- broadly recognised as a 16% work increase with 22% pay reduction in the last 10 years.

    Medicine has always been associated with high levels of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, mental illness and suicide amongst doctors. This situation is worsening and causing doctors to fall ill or retire earlier.

    The occupation is viewed as a toxic empty chalice and there are now very few applicants for jobs vacated by retiring GPs, or GPs taking maternity leave or sick leave.

    Locum GP replacements are also rare and their scarcity has resulted in their earning more than the GPs employing them despite working shorter hours and generating letters and results which the lower paid GP has to deal with. Market forces apply with locums, but this government caps the pay to GPs and refuses to recognise the shortages, worsening pay and conditions and increased ill health their policies are causing.

    These are the reasons GPs leave the UK to work in countries where they are valued, earn more during a shorter working week and have a significantly better work-life balance.

    The GPs who remain do so out of a sense of vocation to their patients and the profession. This goodwill has been exploited over the years and is now fast running out with newly qualified doctors much more likely to see their occupation as ‘just a job’. The quality of health care provision is going down, like it or not.

    The remedy is to recognise, value and reward compassionate health workers rather than prioritise corporate profit.

    Healthcare was privatised many years ago in New Zealand and had to be rescued by the State as the system failed. Ill people need medical care- this generates profit only if people remain ill and consume increasing quantities of ’product’.

    Meanwhile don’t be surprised if you cannot get an appointment at your GP surgery- or, when you eventually do, that your treatment is brusque, abrupt and below your expectations- YOU voted for it.

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  • Carrot and stick . I would expect something either small fry or linked to giving up our GMS contracts under a MCP model

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  • Don't hold your breath!! Anything less than crown indemnity is futile which he is not going to do.

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  • Expect more beatings and the same BS for this busted flush of a government.

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  • If indemnity rises above £25000 the the government will pay first 5% of any increase above that .

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  • Having just described the consequences of a government controlled communist healthcare system the first commentator then makes this statement working in more privatised system.

    Curious faulty logic.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    I may or not be announcing that I may or may not be doing something big or small in the near future.

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  • THEY will say we understand increasing cost of indemnity for gp's and will look at it very carefully and see how we can help. these are tough times with brexit on horizon but this will also be a priority. any increase in indemnity cost will be subsides by government. thank you

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  • I agree with do good

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  • David Banner

    If Hunt had anything worthwhile to announce, he would have leaked like a sieve to extract maximum positivity. The fact he is keeping it under wraps suggests it might go down like a cup of cold sick. I share the fears of others here that he will link any defence subs help to signing a 7 day contract,and abandon GMS to the wolves.

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