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FDA warns of ‘meltdown’ in out of hours services this winter due to indemnity fees

The Family Doctor Association has warned that the rising costs of indemnity fees for out-of-hours GPs could lead to a ’meltdown’ in urgent care this winter unless the Government takes action.

The group said it had argued for ’the need for direct reimbursement of indemnity costs for ordinary working GPs’ at a meeting with NHS England and other GP stakeholders last week.

Speaking at the meeting, FDA chair Dr Peter Swinyard said that ‘urgent changes’ are necessary to the terms of GP indemnity provision, as they are ‘the only group of senior doctors’ in the country who do not see their fees covered by the NHS for public service work.

He also highlighted that GP partners cover the fees, and the annual rises, not just for themselves but also on behalf of medical staff that they employ.

He said: ’GPs are the only group of senior doctors not directly reimbursed for the cost of their indemnity cover for their NHS work. Senior hospital doctors are covered by their employing trusts. Urgent changes need to be made. 

’GP partners and their practices have the double whammy of paying these extortionate rises both for themselves and for the salaried doctors they employ. Urgent change is also needed to prevent a meltdown of out-of-hours provision this winter when willing GPs are prevented by indemnity costs from working for their patients.’

A snapshop FDA survey of members in August suggested GP indemnity costs had increased by 25% in just one year, and warned fees were particularly unaffordable for GPs working out of hours.

A recent Pulse survey showed that 80% of GPs limit the number of out-of-hours shifts they work because of spiralling indemnity fees.

The most recent LMCs Conference also voted that GPs should have the full cost of indemnity covered by a central scheme.

It comes as NHS England’s submission to the independent pay review body ahead of the 2016/17 pay settlement acknowledged the unsustainable rise in indemnity fees but still recommended that GPs may not need any funding uplift at all.

NHS England has told Pulse it is looking closely at the issue of rising GP indemnity costs.