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Indemnity provider announces ‘price freeze’ for GPs

A ‘price freeze’ on annual indemnity renewals until ‘at least’ the summer of 2018 has been announced by one of the UK’s main medical defence organisations.

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) has said it will not increase indemnity premiums for members this year following the Government’s announcement that it will legislate to change the size of compensation claims

The group said it would apply to GPs who have faced a complaint since their last renewal.

It comes after there has been protests by GPs at the size of indemnity fee increases, including an open letter in Pulse to health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding he take urgent action to address the issue. 

GP leaders had warned earlier this year that expected hikes in indemnity costs could make general practice ‘untenable’, following a change last February in the ‘discount rate’ that calculates the size of compensation claims.

This change meant victims may receive double the amount in compensation, resulting in huge increases in indemnity premiums.

Since February, there had been a stand off between the Department of Health and the medical defence organisations, with MDOs saying they will hold off increasing their fees while they wait for the Government to provide additional funding for GPs. But ministers said they are waiting until the fee rises are announced before deciding what support they will provide.

However, this month Lord Chancellor David Lidington announced the Government was putting forward changes to legislation that would stop this huge potential increase in payouts.

And now the MDDUS has become the first MDO to respond, saying that it was freezing the costs for GPs.

MDDUS Chief Executive Chris Kenny said: ‘Government made a profound misstep in reducing the rate so dramatically in February, but it is to its credit that it has responded promptly to our concerns, coming up with a scheme that is fair to claimants and defendants alike and gives the market greater certainty.

‘We had warned our members that there may have to be further rises in the cost of indemnity during the next few months but I’m delighted to say that will not now be the case.

‘We have confidence that the Government will seek to maintain this momentum and our decision to freeze rates reflects our trust in its good intentions.’

When asked whether this would apply to members who had had a complaint or sanctions in the past year, a spokesperson said: ‘Yes, the freeze still applies for those.’ 

NHS England last year vowed to pay the increases the costs of indemnity, but this was a flat rate of 52p per patient into the global sum, which GPs warned was being swallowed up by increasing costs in other areas.

Indemnity provider the Medical Protection Society said it had not passed on costs to its members yet, but didn’t mention any plans to follow MDDUS in freezing prices.

Simon Kayll, CEO at MPS said: ‘We have not made any changes to our GP subscriptions to reflect the change in the discount rate – we are continuing our discussions with the Government about how they will protect GPs from the additional costs.

‘We have actively campaigned for support for GPs from the moment the Government announced that it was re-considering the discount rate. We remain focused and committed to working with Government to help to shape a long term sustainable solution.’

The MDU was approached for comment