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US patients could ruin GPs' health

GPs who treat American and Canadian patients in the UK risk financial ruin and could be breaking GMC guidance.

A warning sent by the Medical Protection Society has sparked fears that GPs could end up the target of legal action in the US.

One GP told Pulse he would refuse to treat North Americans over fears they could bring any subsequent legal complaint to a US or Canadian court.

Neither the MPS nor the rival Medical Defence Union, which between them provide cover for the vast majority of GPs, provide indemnity cover for action brought in a US or Canadian court, even if it relates to treatment in the UK, because of the high cost of litigation in those countries.

Dr Hameed Din, a GP in Billericay, Essex, said: ‘I'm going to take all the Americans and Canadians off my list, because I'm not covered to treat them.

‘My fear is, if this happened to any GP, they'd be ruined.'

He also fears GPs could be breaking GMC guidance by not being fully indemnified against action in US courts.

‘If I'm not covered to do it, then legally I'm not allowed to treat a patient,' he said.

A spokesperson for the GMC said GPs treating Americans or Canadians should consider specialist insurance cover.

If they did not have specialist cover they must explain the limitations of their existing cover before treating patients, she said.

The MPS guidance says there is ‘a possibility' a claim could be made in a North American court, although a spokesperson stressed this was very unlikely.

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