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Government proposes tightening rules on GP medical indemnity schemes

The UK Government is seeking views on proposals to impose regulations on any GP medical indemnity cover offered outside state-backed schemes, in a move that could raise premiums.

It wants to change the rules on the legal requirements for indemnity schemes to ensure defence organisations would be obligated to pay out for claims.

In a consultation document, the Government said while it is only aware of a ‘limited number of cases’ where medical defence organisations have opted not to support a member, rising costs may increase the risk that a healthcare professional finds themselves personally liable or that the patient does not receive adequate compensation.

Any move to ‘insurance-based schemes’ would have the biggest impact on GPs in Scotland and Northern Ireland where there are no plans, as yet, for state-backed indemnity schemes. In England and Wales, state-backed schemes are set to be introduced from April next year.

The consultation document offers two options for discussion – no change from the current discretionary indemnity arrangements, or the Government’s preferred option of changing legislation to ensure providers have the means to pay out and are obligated to pay.

One downside of tightening the regulations around indemnity products could be that providers opt out of providing cover and costs could increase, the consultation said.

Interested parties have until the 28 February to respond to the proposals.    

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The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) called the consultation a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the real reasons indemnity costs are rising.

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: ‘Instead of supporting choice and proposing concrete actions on legal reform that would make a real difference, the Government is seeking to impose a cost increase on health professionals by moving to an insurance-based model that will attract a 12% insurance premium tax.

‘Patients will not be better protected – the document acknowledges that there is no evidence of harm in the UK from the current discretionary model.’

He added that the proposals were disproportionate and urged clinicians and their representatives to respond to the consultation. 

Simon Kayll, chief executive at the Medical Protection Society, said they were working with the Government on the proposals

‘We are already exploring the best way to offer members an insurance product. 

‘Any proposals to introduce regulation will be subject to public consultation and require legislation, so it will be some time before the details are agreed and any changes implemented.’