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GP medical defence costs rise to almost £7,000 per year

Exclusive GP medical indemnity costs have risen by over four times the rate of inflation in 2013, with an average annual premium of nearly £7,000 for the average GP partner.

Medical defence bodies approached by Pulse provided figures showing current average annual indemnity costs had risen by 13% for partners and 12% for salaried GPs, even though the current rate of inflation is 2.8%.

Medical defence bodies defended the indemnity costs rise, pointing to the rapid rise in the number of legal claims, which according to the Medical Protection Society was up by 40% in 2012.

But they also pointed out that recently enacted legislation clamping down on so-called ‘no win, no fee’ cases should reduce indemnity costs in time.

The rise in indemnity costs is slightly higher than last year when Medical Defence Union fees rose by 11% for salaried GPs and 3% for partners.

The MDU said the average cost of indemnity cover for for an eight-session GP partner in 2013/14 was now £6,975, compared with £6,200 in 2012. For an eight-session salaried GP legal indemnity costs had risen from £6,280 to £5,605.

The Medical Protection Society also said that their rates had risen, but refused to provide historical figures. It currently charges an average of £6,865 for an eight-session GP partner and £6,595 for a salaried GP working eight sessions.

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland said its current rates were £4,930 for a partner or salaried GP working seven to 10 sessions in England, but it would be reviewing prices in June.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said indemnity costs have continued to rise in order to meet the rising costs of claims.

She said: ‘We opened 15% more medical claims files in 2012 than 2011 and claims inflation is now running at over 10% per year, far exceeding other inflation measures.

‘The MDU is calling for legal change and a national debate in order to address the cost of compensation and its effects on the public interest.

‘Claimants’ legal costs - which in some no-win-no-fee cases are disproportionately high - are another contributing factor to high claims costs.

She added that legal aid reforms - stemming from the official review into civil litigation funding, including conditional fee arrangements -that came into force at the start of April should reduce legal costs in time, but warned: ‘It will take a while to work through to reduced legal costs as there are many cases still in the system under the old procedure rules.’

An MPS spokesperson said: ‘Subscription rates are set fairly so members only pay for the risk associated with their particular area of practice.

‘We understand the impact of members’ subscriptions on their professional practice and we work hard on members’ behalf to minimise the causes of increasing indemnity costs.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said rising indemnity costs were of ‘huge concern’ to GPs, and could be a contributor to the current recruitment crisis.

He said: ‘GPs are hugely concerned about the spiralling costs of indemnity insurance. It is one of the contributing factors when GPs decide whether to remain in the profession or not, particularly at the later stage of their career when the cost of indemnity protection can put into question the viability of continuing to practice as a locum in retirement.’

He added that the it will ‘take some time’ before the legal aid reforms concerning no-win-no-fee cases will have any effect on indemnity costs.

He said: ‘The Government needs to lead a wholesale review of the complaints process. We have yet to see what effect the legal aid reforms will have but it will not have any immediate effect on the cost of indemnity cover.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Pulse Live

Put your questions on how to avoid a career-ending complaint to our panel of experts at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.

Readers' comments (12)

  • When I became a partner in 1982 I paid £40/yr MPS membership,which using web based inflation calculators equates to about £120 today.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    We are all paying the cost of a compensation culture fuelled by the introduction of the contingency fee lawyers by the last government (which was run by a lawyer). no self-interest there then.

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  • There is no doubt some medical care in NHS is negligent and patients should have the right to ask for justified compensation.

    However we also see unjust claims and threats from patients who are using it as a leverage to gain what they want. I recently had a patient demanding an MRI (where there was no clinical indications) and a threat of legal action if I didn't organize this. I have also seen a colleague who had a claim made against him and the effect it takes. At the end of it, the best a doctor can hope for is the claim to be over turned, and no compensation is given to the distress it caused or the financial impact.

    To make it fair, medical professions should be able to counter sue.

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  • This article is very poignant but fails to address the plight of OOH GPs. The Medical Protection Society has increased annual subscription for GP OOH work this month from £10,750 to a staggering £14,295 for those of us working more than 8hr a week. This equates to a 32.9% increase on last year’s subscription rates. This increase compares with a 13% increase for salaried GP’s / Day time GP locums, and a 3% increase for full time partners in GP practice. The increase for those GP’s working up to 8hr a week in an OOH role in addition to full time day time work is a more modest £1,250, from £8,270 to £9,520. Given that remuneration rates for GP OOH work have been stagnant in our area since 2004 at £55/hr for evening work, £60/hr for weekend work , and £65/hr of overnight work, working in GP OOH has become increasingly more unattractive compared to day-time work.
    The consequences of this relentless increase in the cost of working in an OOH environment, coupled with increasingly unattractive rates of remuneration have put immense pressures on service providers to cover sessions. This has lead to a situation where those GP’s who are prepared to work in GP OOH having an increased work load with excessive call back times for triage, and a lack of appointments for those patients who need to be seen. Triage clinicians are under pressure to triage out increasing numbers of calls with a consequent knock on effect for day time services. This situation leads to more complaints from patients, which fuels the perception that GP OOH is a high risk environment in which to work. This then feeds through to higher Professional indemnity fees.
    I wonder how long this situation can be sustained before OOH services completely implode. At current rates of increase we will soon reach a situation where it’s not cost effective for GP’s to work in OOH at all.

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  • Arguably part of the cost of a profession that has historically been barely if at all performance monitored. How many negligent mistakes never make it to a claim / the GMC?

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  • There are now plenty of ads seeking out potential medical accident claimants.some of whom for sure wouldn't have even thought of doing so before. some are very nasty on lines of eg 'did your posh consultant leave an instrument inside you while he went off to play golf?;.very dated type of ads but must be working as they are v expensive

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  • I think the defence bodies need to decide to be much more aggressive in their defence of cases. Firstly more moderate cases should be defended instead of settled and those who are successfully defended should seek to pursue the complainant for extended costs. This may include counter cases for unsubstantiated claims when appropriate.

    There may be short term costs by way of higher settlements, but the long term benefits of deterring frivolous claims would be beneficial.

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  • As A GP partner covering up to 10 clinical sessions a week my MPS fees have gone from £6400 to £7250 this year which represents about 12.5% increase.

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  • As until recently a full time partner and now retiring this friday I am sad to say the relief gets greater with every parting second!!!

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  • Ameer Khan

    Glad i moved down under, MIPS which is the equivalent of MPS charge me $1200 a year for private GP practice... thats about $700 a year!!!

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