This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs ‘will need to keep own indemnity subscriptions’ despite state scheme

GPs should retain their medical defence organisation subscriptions when the state-backed indemnity scheme comes in next year, the BMA has said.

This is because the new scheme, expected to launch 1 April, will not provide full protection for GPs, excluding for example GMC hearings and criminal cases.

The BMA update comes as the Department of Health and Social Care deferred expected new information on the scheme several months ago, saying this would come in the ‘near future’.

However, the BMA has now said the Government is expected ‘to make a more detailed statement in the coming weeks’, about the scheme.

The BMA said the new scheme will be ‘free at the point of delivery’, but added, GPs ‘will still need to retain membership of an MDO’.

The guidance said: ‘The scope of the state-backed scheme is to cover the cost of clinical negligence for NHS services.

‘The MDOs will continue to play an important role in providing legal advice, representation for GMC hearings and also for the rare occasion where a criminal case occurs.

‘Similar to hospital colleagues, it will be essential to maintain such medical indemnity.’ 

However, the Government scheme is expected to make GP defence organsation memberships cheaper and the BMA update adds that those who have paid upfront for memberships will be reimbursed ‘for the portion of cover they will no longer require once the state scheme begins’.

This is the first time GPs have been explicitly told to retain their MDO membership despite the state scheme’s introduction.

But an initital Department of Health and Social Care factsheet said GP were ‘likely to want to continue private indemnity arrangements to provide help should they need it for private work, in coroners’ cases, GMC hearings and other matters relating to professional regulation’.

MDU director of professional services Dr Matthew Lee said: ‘GPs can be subject to multiple jeopardy from just one incident [through] patient complaints, GMC referrals relating to conduct, health or performance, Ombudsman investigations, Performers’ List actions, coroner’s inquests and even criminal investigations… 

‘When something goes wrong, GP members need to know they can call on the MDU around the clock to get access to expert medico-legal guidance and support. We are confident GPs will want to retain membership of an MDO.’

MDDUS director of development David Sturgeon said: ‘Doctors will continue to need comprehensive protection for all their activity that falls outside the state-backed scheme – and from the consequences of the scheme if, as we fear, state-backed indemnity leads to claims settlements which take no account of damage to the professional standing and reputation of doctors.’

Asked about future cost of GP indemnity subscriptions, he added: ‘There will be more details shortly. We will determine prices when we have more details of the Government’s thinking.’

However, MPS chief executive Simon Kayll said MPS GP members ‘can expect to pay less for their membership… because the potential cost of clinical negligence claims accounts for a significant amount of the membership subscription they currently pay.

He said: ‘Removing or reducing the indemnity component when they move to the state-backed scheme will therefore reduce the cost of their membership subscription.’

What is happening to GP indemnity?

The state-backed indemnity scheme was welcome news to GPs when it was announced last October, following years of rising costs of negligence cover.

However the announcement left many unanswered questions andprompted a mixed response from medical indemnity organisationsas well as caveats from the DHSC.

The DHSC has said the scheme will cover all practice staff, and most recently it told Pulse the scheme may potentially cover both future and historic claims.

GPs have been encouraged to participate in a survey to inform the negotiations.

This comes as, over the past years, GPs have been contending with indemnity cost hikes of up to 25% annually, according to reports.