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GP leaders call for expansion of state-backed GP indemnity scheme

Northern Ireland needs a long-term plan for medical indemnity cover ‘in line with England and Wales’, GP leaders have warned.

In response to an announcement by the Department of Health for an additional £1m to support indemnity costs this year, the RCGP said a ‘full solution’ is needed as a matter of urgency.

The BMA said it was in talks with the Government about potential solutions to the problem of high medical negligence cover affecting GPs in Northern Ireland but said it was ‘a complicated piece of work’.

England and Wales will launch government-backed indemnity schemes for GPs next year.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the state-backed scheme in England would be open to all GPs, including locums and sessional work, for all NHS work from April 2019.

In May the Welsh Government said the scheme will be ‘aligned as far as possible’ with proposals for England to ensure GPs in Wales will not be at a disadvantage.

Dr Grainne Doran, RCGP Northern Ireland chair said the additional support for indemnity costs announced by the Department of Health was welcome but fees are set to rise from April 2019 and a long-term solution is needed.

‘It is critical that we find a full solution to increased indemnity costs, in line with England and Wales, as a matter of urgency,’ she said.

‘We must not create financial disincentives for newly qualified GPs and trainees that will encourage them to consider working elsewhere in the UK, instead of training and working in Northern Ireland.’

She added that although a ‘Crown indemnity’-style scheme would be one option, the College would be happy with ‘any solution that was equitable’.

BMA Northern Ireland’s GP committee chair Dr Tom Black said discussions about indemnity costs with the Department were ongoing and he would expect a solution before April 2019.

‘It is a very complicated piece of work and the four nations have to pay attention to what the solution from London is.

‘We would be very keen to make sure GPs in Northern Ireland are not disadvantaged in any way by the scheme being introduced in England,’ he said.

The increased indemnity funding was announced as part of a £8.8m funding boost for 2018/19 covering practice-based pharmacists, premises, and money to support changes in practice demographics.