Exclusive Locum GPs in Wales are charging practices around 20% more to ensure they have indemnity cover amid a lack of confidence in the state-backed scheme, Pulse has learned.
Wales brought in state-backed indemnity for all GPs in 2019, but in recent months has stipulated all locum GPs must join the new Locum Hub Wales to qualify for the cover.
GP leaders recently warned that Welsh locums could face ‘potentially financially crippling’ effects from the new requirement to join a staff bank.
They said that the system – which requires every shift to be recorded – is open to administrative error, meaning that GPs may not be able to prove they had indemnity cover and could be left to pay for clinical negligence costs.
Now Pulse understands that locums working in Wales have raised fees by around a fifth to mitigate this and take out additional cover with a medical defence organisation, while others are avoiding shifts in Wales entirely.
National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse told Pulse the organisation has seen examples of locums putting up their rates by ‘about 20%’.
He said: ‘We’ve got definitive evidence to prove that locums are working in Wales less and some that are still working there are charging a lot more to cover the indemnity cost.’
Dr Fieldhouse added that some ‘don’t want [their data] to be on the Welsh system’, while many are concerned that they are not adequately covered by the indemnity scheme.
He said: ‘The IT system [the locum hub has] used is so clunky and [GPs are] worried that actually if their IT system breaks down and their session gets lost then they might be working illegally – they’re not covered.
‘That’s just too risky so they’d rather pay the extra money and charge it back to the practice.’
Chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee Dr Phil White said that locums ‘are of course entitled to seek expanded cover from medical defence organisations over and above the professional indemnity cover’ offered by the Welsh Government via the hub system.
However, he added that the rise in fees will have a knock-on effect on practices that ‘rely’ on support from locum GPs.
Dr White said: ‘Overall this does cause concern for general practices in Wales especially with the current unprecedented demand for our services where we rely on additional support from locums.
‘We have met with Shared Services Partnership, who operate the Welsh indemnity scheme, to discuss collaborative working in future.’
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘Practices have long called for a tool to support them to better meet and manage their temporary workforce needs. In response to their feedback, Locum Hub Wales now provides an all-Wales solution designed to increase opportunity for locums and practices, at a time when practices and health boards require a straightforward route to engage locum services.
‘Since the release of the full functionality of Locum Hub Wales, NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership (NWSSP) has received positive feedback from both practices and locums using the system, including noting an increase in choice within their area.’
They added that the Government has engaged with union representatives and stakeholders throughout the development of the hub.
In recent months, talks have begun between the BMA’s Northern Ireland GP Committee and the Government in Northern Ireland to secure state-backed indemnity for GPs across the country.
If an agreement is reached it would mean all UK countries have a state-backed indemnity scheme in place, apart from Scotland where indemnity costs are lower.
It comes as Pulse revealed that one medical defence organisation has seen its busiest months ever as it supports GPs with increasing complaints and claims.