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Warning on contract indemnity loophole

By Ian Cameron

GPs face a huge increase in indemnity bills because of a loophole in the new contract that puts 'no limitations' on their liability for investigations into their practice.

Legal experts warned GPs' medical indemnity would have to be extended to cover far more than clinical negligence unless sections of the contract were rewritten.

But despite urgent calls from GPs and medical defence bodies for the GPC to tackle the problem, negotiators claimed practices had nothing to worry about.

The dispute centres on paragraph 473 of the draft contract.

It states GPs must cover their PCO against any cost or liability it incurred from investigating 'any act or omission of the contractor' which constituted a breach of the contract.

Dr Gerard Panting, director of communications and policy at the Medical Protection Society, said indemnity would have to cover losses that were 'nothing to do with clinical negligence'.

He added: 'It's talking about any act or omission which is considered a breach of contract. Many GPs may not be fully indemnified against the range of things PCTs investigate.'

The Medical Defence Union said it did not know how the clause would work .

A spokeswoman said: 'We provide indemnity on an individual basis. If a patient complains about practice staff it would be covered by vicarious liability which means GPs are

liable.

'But we can't extend that beyond practice staff and it's not transferable to PCTs.'

Lynne Abbess, head of professional services at Hempsons, said the clause should be 'watered down' as it was 'too broad'.

GPC member Dr Fay Wilson said the clause would cost GPs 'thousands and thousands' in indemnity unless it was altered. She added: 'If medical defence organisations have to cover this it will

obviously be more expensive.'

But GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd said the section was 'standard practice'.

He added: 'If you feel you cannot meet the conditions of the contract ­ say if you have not opted out of additional services but cannot deliver them because your partner has left ­ all you have to do is go to your PCT and say you need to amend the contract.'

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