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State-backed GP indemnity scheme ‘could cover historic claims’, says health minister

Exclusive The Department of Health has said its state-backed indemnity scheme may potentially cover both future and historic claims.

In a letter to Pulse’s editor Nigel Praities, health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said the work to develop the scheme was ‘at an early stage’.

But he added that he did ‘recognise the crucial role GPs play’ in the NHS and wanted to ‘ensure that the rising cost of indemnity is no longer a barrier to their continuation in practice’.

Lord O’Shaughnessy was responding to the letter Pulse hand-delivered to health secretary Jeremy Hunt in September, calling for GPs to be treated fairly to hospital colleagues with regards to medical indemnity costs.

Written by Blackburn GP and long-time campaigner Dr Preeti Shukla, the letter was signed by 300 GPs after being published in Pulse.

In his response letter, dated 15 November, Lord O’Shaughnessy said the state-backed indemnity scheme would ‘take at least 12-18 month to establish’ and ‘require careful negotiation’.

He wrote: ‘My aim is that the [DH] delivers a more stable and more affordable system for GPs and their patients. The scheme could provide financially sustainable cover for future, and potentially historic, claims arising from the deliver of NHS services.

‘The [DH] will work with GPs and their representatives, other providers of primary medical services and practice staff to develop the scheme and its scope. In addition, we will explore with GP representatives how to fund new indemnity arrangements, including the future costs of a state-backed scheme.’

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Until a state-backed scheme is in place, GPs ‘should continue to ensure they have appropriate indemnity cover in line with [GMC] requirements to enable them to practice’, Lord O’Shaughnessy added.

The MDU, which is the only provider to change its policy in light of the DH announcement of a state-backed scheme, has asked GPs to back its demands for the DH scheme to cover both future and historical claims.

The DH had said the MDU’s stance left GPs liable to indemnity costs the state-backed scheme may not cover.

The health secretary has said its scheme will be open to all GPs, including locums and sessional work, for all NHS work but the DH has previously told Pulse is cannot guarantee it will slash costs for GPs.

Dr Shukla’s letter, which was published alongside a feature on the toll of rising costs,  had described how indemnity costs are ‘killing’ general practice. Read the letter in full here.

This comes as new data suggested two out of five GPs now retire before the age of 60, with many GPs considering leaving due to the cost of indemnity.