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Out-of-hours group increased recruitment threefold after offering GPs free indemnity

Exclusive An out-of-hours provider offering GPs free indemnity cover has boosted recruitment threefold since deciding to shoulder the cost six months ago.

GPs working for Vocare, a provider of GP out-of-hours services as well as urgent care centres across England, have had all of their out-of-hours shift work covered by the provider for the last six months after it struck a deal with a private insurance company.

It said it recruited 175 GPs to work out of hours in the past six months, compared to just 60 in the six-month period prior when it was struggling to fill shifts.

A survey by Urgent Health UK recently found that four out of five out-of-hours GPs said spiralling indemnity fees are limiting the number of out-of-hours shifts they’re willing to do.

Vocare said it had signed the deal after struggling to fill shifts and, after asking GPs why they were unwilling to take on out-of-hours work, the rising cost of indemnity was a key issue. 

GPs working for Vocare still have to indemnify themselves for their regular in-hours work but reduce their overall premiums with medical defence organisations by not having to buy cover for out-of-hours work.

A spokesperson for Vocare said: ’It has been about six months since it was introduced and in that time Vocare has recruited 175 GPs across the country. At a time when GPs are in short supply this is a large number.

’The comparative figure for the six months before was 60 – so there has been nearly three times the number of GPs recruited since the indemnity deal.’

Vocare chief executive John Harrison said the recruitment success showed there are ’still GPs willing to work for out-of-hours services which is great news for patients around the country’.

He said: ’At time when GP recruitment is at an all-time low, we have been extremely happy with the numbers we have been able to recruit. We didn’t understand the high costs of indemnity quoted by medical defence organisations to GPs who want to work in out-of-hours services.

’Locktons undertook a thorough and full audit of our services before agreeing to the indemnity deal and it showed that we are performing to the highest standards.We were pleased that the cost came in at a level which means that we can provide indemnity to our GPs at no additional cost to them.’

Dr Charlotte Jones, who is the GPC executive’s lead on urgent care, said: 'Anything that helps recruitment and retention of GPs whether doing unscheduled work out of hours or in other environments is to be welcomed.’

The problems with out-of-hours indemnity

GPs on call - OOH - out of hours - urgent care - online

GPs on call - OOH - out of hours - urgent care - online

The issue of out-of-hours indemnity became stark last year, after a series of links were made between the out-of-hours recruitment crisis and rising indemnity fees.

Pulse revealed that one out-of-hours GP claimed that they had been quoted premiums of up to £30,000 by the medical defence organisations.

Elsewhere, a survey of 430 out of hours GPs by out-of-hours provider group Urgent Health UK found 79% were limiting the number of out-of-hours shifts they undertake because of clinical indemnity premiums.

Even the Government acknowledged the problems, implementing a £2m temporary winter scheme covering the increases in indemnity costs for GPs taking on extra shifts until the end of March.

A recent Pulse survey of GPs found indemnity fees have spiralled ‘out of control’ with rises of a quarter in the past year, although medical defence organisations argued average rises were closer to 10%.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Indemnity one of the herd of elephants in the GPs consulting room.

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  • Simple solutions are often the most effective.

    Unbelievable how its taken so long for the "powers that be" to cotton on to this fact

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  • If we all refuse to work in OOH then we will see more of the same. It is clear that withdrawal of labour is the only action which provokes a favourable reaction. Look at the situation in Hull.

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  • A bit of irony that this same provider very often sends SMS and emails to all GP`s in their books that they are struggling to fill in shifts.
    Also locally many PCC`s are unstaffed and patient asked to go to different centres including a patient asked to travel 45 minutes to another of their PCC at midnight. However they are not unique in this situation!

    Obviously things must have been even worse before.
    Back to the topic, I fully agree with proving indemnity to GP`s so that they may take up shifts in OOH.
    Interestingly after April OOH maybe passed onto Federations/super practices etc with the new "voluntary contract"....

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  • Start sharing patient records and OOH indemnity costs will fall immediately.

    Selfish partners are monopolising patient records under the pretence that they are protecting patient confidentiality which they are quite happy to forgo when it comes to sharing with members of their federations. It is just a matter of time before some OOH service legally challenges this anti-competitive behaviour and I hope they succeed. People claim that they care about their patients but deliberately expose them to risk by not sharing the patient record.

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  • Utter utter rubbish. I work for this organisation and the only reason their shifts may be filled is because they remove most of them off the rota so they can't be filled. Meaning the few remaining ones look as though they have been shift. Overnight in particular in Stoke/ Stafford/ Burton/ Cannock they only fill 3 out the 5 GP shifts on a regular basis. It's all about saving money by offering a sub standard and dangerous service.

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  • Well 7.50, how about we ask Pulse to validate this story?

    Nigel? Anybody?

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  • So GPs are being used as cannon fodder!

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  • They don't claim to have filled all their shifts, just to have increased the number of doctors willing to work.

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  • Let's consider a locum with £15k annual (1.5k a month x 10 mths)of indemnity contribution. One would have to work at least 3 days a month only for the insurance company with no guarantee that next year it won't be 2k a month.
    Crown indemnity would certainly make a difference and would stop this rip off which has become a major deterrent to general practice. OOH Providers wish to survive and earn but the government's priority is liquidation of gp so it's not the solution they are going to consider.

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