An average GP pays £8,000 per year in indemnity costs, a figure that is helping to drive GPs out of the profession and putting patients at risk, a new report by a centre-right think-tank claims.
Policy strategist and consultant neurologist Dr Paul Goldsmith said the £65 billion NHS liabilities for medico-legal claims are ‘putting patients at risk by driving GPs out of practice’.
In his report for the free market think tank Centre for Policy Studies (founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph), he outlined the impact of high indemnity payments which mean some GPs are ‘finding it too expensive to work, particularly those working out of hours’.
The average GP is forking out more than £8,000 per year for indemnity, he found, but the rates are higher for out of hours GPs, who face higher risks.
Dr Goldsmith said: ‘GPs’ indemnity payments have become so great that some are finding it has become too expensive to work out of hours.’
Doctors are citing the cost and personal jeopardy as factors in taking early retirement or reducing their workload.
‘What is perhaps more surprising is it is also deterring young doctors from entering primary care,’ the report concluded.
‘At a time of major shortages of doctors, this is highly undesirable.’
He described how the situation worsened with the drop in the discount rate announced this February, which influences the level of payouts and ‘leads to a near doubling of awards.’
‘A problem is current GPs are in effect paying for cases which relate to previous years, perhaps for colleagues who have now retired. If these costs are passed through to GPs, they may find them unaffordable and stop work.’
The other conclusions from the report included:
- The prolonged jeopardy of fitness-to-practise investigations ‘contributes to the high suicide rates among doctors, which is double that of the background population and more broadly high rates of mental health.’
- The move to end single GPs ‘is a good thing’, as ‘working in a group rather than isolation is an important aid to quality and safety.’
- There should be a no fault compensation, which should be paid directly to the responsible body buying future care for the claimant.