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Policy of targeting hepatitis B vaccine at misusers is failing

The Department of Health wants an overhaul of medical indemnity for GPs to be considered as part of the Chief Medical Officer's review of revalidation and the GMC.

A senior official said ministers were pushing to include a consultation on medical indemity in the review after hearing a 'small but significant' number of doctors had no cover.

As Pulse revealed last week, the consultation will consider whether to make insurance compulsory for GPs.

This could mean existing 'discretionary' cover provided by mutual insurers including the Medical Protection Society and Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland being scrapped.

A separate consultation on the issue had been planned for later this year, but the department now wants it to be 'folded in' to the CMO review.

The official added that the Government also wanted to close a 'loophole' that means indemnity stops when doctors retire or die.

Health ministers were prompted to act after solicitors seeking damages for patients of cosmetic surgeon Dr Fayez Mahfouz, who was struck off in December, discovered he did not have insurance.

Harold Berwin, a partner at solicitors McFaddens, who represented the patients, said the department had told him that it was a 'matter of general public interest' that GPs should have insurance.

'The GMC has no record of who is not insured,' he said. 'All it has is a register of practitioners and the requirement under Good Medical Practice to be insured.'

Possession of insurance will be examined as part of revalidation. But Mr Berwin said patients should not have to wait until this starts.

The Medical Defence Union said its medical negligence insurance does lapse once a doctor retires or dies, but it retained the discretion to provide indemnity against a claim even decades after.

Dr Matthew Lee, MDU medicolegal adviser, said the union had already asked the department for clinical negligence insurance to become mandatory. He said: 'Discretion alone is no longer an acceptable means of providing indemnity.'

By Ian Cameron

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