The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) has extended its free coronavirus support for GPs returning to work for the pandemic effort until February 2021.
However, it comes as the Medical Defence Union (MDU) will close its free support scheme next week as it is unable to offer free membership ‘indefinitely’.
The MDDUS announced yesterday that it has decided to extend the offer – which initially ran until August – by six months ‘in recognition of winter forward-planning within the NHS across the UK and a potential need to call upon retired doctors to step up once more’.
Retired doctors who already have or will return to practise due to Covid will continue to have free membership and access to legal support by the MDDUS until February, it said.
Returning doctors are indemnified by the Government via the Coronavirus Act, but the MDDUS’ free service covers support for other risks they might face such as ethical and legal issues, regulatory hearings, tribunals and inquiries.
Dr Chris Godeseth, customer and development director at MDDUS, said: ‘It was always our intention to review this cover – known as MDDUS Coronavirus Support – and it is the right thing to do to continue it into next year.
‘We want to reassure our retired members that if they wish to answer any new call to step up and support the NHS effort on Covid-19 that MDDUS is here for them. This decision removes a hurdle to returning to practise.’
The support is applied automatically to members, with no need to opt-in or out, the MDDUS said.
A spokesperson for the MDU confirmed to Pulse that its Covid Returners Scheme for retired members – launched in March for an initial three month period then extended to six months – is set to end on 30 September.
They said: ‘The scheme was never intended to offer ongoing indemnity, at no cost, for members working for an open-ended and indefinite time.
‘The MDU is a not-for-profit, mutual organisation owned by its members. All our subscriptions go to meet the costs of guiding, supporting and defending our members.’
The organisation was ‘happy’ to introduce the scheme to support the initial response to coronavirus but ‘cannot offer membership free of charge indefinitely’, the spokesperson added.
They said: ‘It is neither fair nor equitable to paying members to allow open-ended, free membership for others in active, paid practice, who may equally need to call upon us for assistance under the benefits of membership.’
Meanwhile, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) confirmed to Pulse that its own support package will continue on a rolling basis.
MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: ‘Retired doctors who are former MPS members and have been reinstated to the GMC register to support the Covid-19 NHS response have automatic and free of charge support with a wide range of issues – including complaints and disciplinary matters – should they arise as a result of their work during the pandemic.
‘Because the benefits of MPS membership are provided on an occurrence basis, retired GPs can request assistance with issues that may have arisen from their work during the pandemic, at any time in the future.’
It comes as the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday warned that over 200 people a per day could die in the UK by mid-November unless the country gets a grip on the virus spread.
But announcing a tightening of coronavirus restrictions today, the Prime Minister said people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 do not need to resume shielding despite the rise in cases.