Northern Irish GPs will not face big increases to the cost of their indemnity in light of personal injury discount rate (PIDR) changes, medical defence organisations have pledged.
A new lower PIDR for Northern Ireland of -1.5% came into effect on 22 March. It is a substantial drop from the 2.5% rate which was in place before May 2021 and a slight decrease on the temporary rate of -1.75%.
The PIDR is the method used to assess the amount of compensation that is paid following a clinical negligence and other personal injury claims where there may be long-term costs for care.
The lower the discount rate, the higher the amount of compensation awarded.
A low PIDR means the total costs of clinical negligence claims are higher, which can affect the price of professional indemnity.
Medical Protection CEO Simon Kayll said he wrote to Northern Ireland Medical Protection GP members last year to say that the temporary PIDR would not lead to a marked increase in professional indemnity fees.
He said: ‘I am pleased to be able to now confirm that this remains the case, despite the PIDR remaining at a very low level.
‘Increases in Medical Protection subscription rates will be kept significantly lower than the rate of inflation.’
He said that the indemnity provider has been able to maintain low prices partly due to ‘identifying additional cost savings in efficiently managing claims’ and ‘successfully challenging claims made against GPs’.
Meanwhile, CEO of MDDUS Chris Kenny told Pulse: ‘I’m pleased to confirm that, despite the new PIDR rate introduced by the Department of Justice, we will keep increases in subscription fees for GPs in Northern Ireland significantly lower than the rate of inflation.
He said that MDDUS was ‘the first medical defence union to hold subscriptions when the temporary PIDR rate was first introduced’, adding: ‘We are continuing to do so by making only minor adjustments to fees now this decision has been disappointingly confirmed.’
And MDU head of professional services Dr Hugh Stewart told Pulse: ‘The MDU’s claims made solution for GPs in Northern Ireland has enabled us to provide our members with affordable, and sustainable, indemnity.’
Unlike in other parts of the UK, GPs in Northern Ireland are not yet covered by a state-backed scheme.
In England and Wales, the system was changed in 2019 so that state-backed schemes automatically cover all GPs if they are providing NHS services. In Scotland, indemnity costs are lower, and there is no state-backed scheme.