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Lack of indemnity scheme in Northern Ireland is ‘blatantly unfair’, says BMA

Changes should be made to the ‘blatantly unfair’ indemnity system in Northern Ireland, the head of the BMA GP Committee in Northern Ireland has said. 

Since April this year, GPs in England and Wales have no longer had to pay their own indemnity fees for NHS work, thanks to a new Government scheme.

But GPs in Northern Ireland are not covered by the scheme and are still paying thousands of pounds a year to be covered for clinical negligence.

Dr Alan Stout, Chair of BMA NI GPC told delegates at the LMC annual conference on Saturday that a solution is a priority.

In a speech to delegates, he said: ‘We know that we as GPs in Northern Ireland are now the only health care professionals of any designation in the whole of the UK still paying exorbitant costs for personal indemnity, often running into five figures. This is not only blatantly unfair but also carries significant risk in terms of outstanding liabilities and we need to solve this as quickly as possible.’

‘Unfortunately, any change to this may well require a minister, but we are exploring all avenues in their absence and the Department of Health have introduced funding over the past two years to cover the rising costs.’

Speaking to Pulse, he said the lack of a Government in Northern Ireland meant it would be difficult to implement the scheme unless there was a directive from Westminster with a funding package to support it.

He said: ‘We want indemnity to be covered but don’t want a reorganised and complicated contract agreement.’

Dr Stout added that changes in other areas must also be made to create a more ‘stable’ healthcare environment in Northern Ireland, including helping practices that do not yet have multidisciplinary teams and looking at GP premises as an ‘ongoing priority’.  

He said: ‘We cannot be complacent. We are fully aware that there are still practices in significant difficulty and particularly in areas that do not yet have multidisciplinary teams. We need to work with these practices and provide as much help as we can, collectively as it is vital that we create the stable environment that we all need.

‘Premises is also an ongoing priority, with it often becoming the destabilising factor within a practice, be it through a lease, be it through a sale or be it the reluctance of a new partner to buy in. We have various projects and various workstreams to try to address this and we will continue to do so.’

In October, it was announced that multidisciplinary teams would extend to all five health boards.