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Out-of-hours GPs to lose state-backed indemnity cover in NI

Out-of-hours GPs to lose state-backed indemnity cover in NI

Clinical negligence indemnity cover for GP work done out of hours in Northern Ireland will be withdrawn, the Department of Health has announced.

GP representatives were communicated the decision ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend, and it was initially thought that the cover would be withdrawn from April 1.

But the Department of Health told Pulse that the current arrangements for indemnity will instead remain in place until the end of June.

GPs working at surgeries in Northern Ireland are not supported by a state-backed indemnity scheme – which means they have to pay fees of up to around £10,000 a year for a full-time GP – but cover was funded by the Department of Health for work done out of hours.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘The Department will continue to engage with out-of-hours providers to fully understand the indemnity issue for doctors, potential impacts and review mitigations.’

The doctors’ defence organisation MDDUS described the change in conditions for GPs in Northern Ireland as ‘deplorable’.

Chris Kenny, chief executive of MDDUS, said that the cover is ‘essential’ to GPs practising safely and within their regulatory obligations.

He said: ‘The risk that GPs will find themselves inadvertently unindemnified or that services will suffer whilst the arrangements are put in place is a very real one.

‘A decision to withdraw Crown indemnity cover in the run up to a busy holiday period over Easter shows no empathy or understanding by the Department of Health NI of the pressures facing those in primary care.’

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.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has not yet acted on the BMA’s calls to implement a similar scheme as in England and Wales.

Last year, BMA Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout told Pulse that the lack of state-backed indemnity support means there is a ‘very obvious discrepancy between GPs in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK’.

He also said that there was ‘clear evidence’ that GPs were being sued by patients experiencing long waits for hospital treatment.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Michael Mullineux 3 April, 2024 11:33 am

Simple solution – withdraw your OOH labour

A B 3 April, 2024 2:01 pm

This sounds incredibly stupid

john mccormack 3 April, 2024 8:12 pm

A recent auditor general report has revealed that General Practice in Northern Ireland receives a meagre 5.4% of total NHS spending. Over 1/3rd of practices are teetering on the brink of collapse. We have had very little political oversight for years which has allowed a cabal of anti General Practice civil servants to continue their vandalism of General Practice.

David Church 3 April, 2024 8:49 pm

The scheme does not automatically cover all GPs in Wales. It only applies if you meet certain criteria and continually report each day worked.