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Defence bodies reject GPs cleared by GMC as ‘too expensive to insure’

Exclusive: GPs who have been investigated by the GMC and then cleared or put through remediation are being effectively barred from practising because medical defence bodies consider them too expensive to insure, Pulse can reveal.

GP leaders have warned that a series of doctors – including one involved in a high-profile national case in which he was cleared – have been prevented from returning to clinical practice because they have been unable to obtain indemnity insurance after their cases incurred legal fees running into six figures.

It is a regulatory requirement for GPs to obtain indemnity insurance, with three major medical defence bodies – the Medical Defence Union, the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland and the Medical Protection Society – offering cover, in addition to a few commercial providers.

But the GPC and LMC leaders claim the limited number of insurers means some GPs face having their careers ended prematurely.

Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs, is currently advising on seven cases where GPs who have gone through remediation are struggling to get indemnity cover: ‘The medical defence organisations are making a financial judgment. If they say "we won't insure you", that means you cannot work. It's like the old trial for witchcraft – the process will destroy you, even if you're innocent. You risk ending the doctor's career on the basis of a financial prediction.'

One GP affected, who asked not to be named, said that after his GMC erasure was revoked he had been ‘devastated' to receive ‘blanket rejections'.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator, said the GPC was investigating the issue: ‘While I can understand an insurer has to consider risks, there are only a few malpractice insurers for GPs. It is but a small step to doctors being completely cut out.'

The MDU, MDDUS and MPS refused to disclose how many doctors restored to the GMC register had been refused cover on cost grounds – but said they had a ‘duty' to refuse some applications.

Dr Jim Rodger, head of professional services at MDDUS, said: ‘As a mutual indemnity organisation we have a responsibility to protect our members' interests by ensuring the decisions we make do not incur any inappropriate risk – this can sometimes mean refusing applications for membership.'

An MDU spokesperson said: ‘We have a duty to our members to manage the risks.'

Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy at the MPS, said the ‘vast majority' of applicants were accepted, but added: ‘A doctor who has been restored to the register does not necessarily equate to an acceptable risk.'