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Practices face huge losses over locum insurance shortfall

GPs are facing bills of thousands of pounds because their sick partners have failed to take out adequate insurance for locum cover, according to GP accountants.

The shortfalls have been caused by huge hikes in locum rates in recent years which have left many old policies comparatively worthless.

In one case a practice was left to pay nearly £9,000 after a sick partner took early retirement.

Paul Kendall of accountants Dodd & Co said there was a continuing problem of GPs failing to take out insurance or not updating the cover.

'We advise our clients to review cover every three years. Locums can cost around £250 a day, that's £1,125 for a nine-session week, so we advise cover of at least £1,000 a week,' he said.

In the case of the practice facing a bill of £8,900, the sick GP had not arranged insurance and the bill for locum cover had to be paid out of the GP's practice current account.

David McLaughlin of Newcastle-based accountant RMT said GPs should take cover worth at least £4,000 to £4,500 per month, but some GPs had very old policies

offering just £100 a week.

'Most GPs do not review their premiums, assuming that because a policy is index-linked it is OK. But many

older policies have far too little cover,' he said.

One West Midlands GP who asked not to be named told Pulse that locum cover had been costing him between £2,000 and £3,000 a month for the past three months.

He said his partners had covered for him for the first four weeks he was off sick but now needed to use a locum for several days a week.

He added: 'I was stupid not to take out insurance, but had always assumed my partners would be able to cover.

'But the practice is already a partner down because they can't recruit.'

Stuart Smith, financial adviser with Pulse Independent, said older GPs might have been lax about taking out adequate insurance because their premiums were higher, even though the sum was tax deductible.

A 34-year-old GP taking out monthly cover of £1,200 would pay £90 a month in premiums, but a 60-year-old would have to pay £180, he said.

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