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GP indemnity costs to be covered as NHS England looks to fill out-of-hours shifts

GPs working out-of-hours shifts will have their indemnity costs covered until April under a pilot scheme run by NHS England as it admitted that costs are ‘often a barrier to recruit’.

The move, revealed in a news bulletin to practices this morning, comes as ‘significant’ winter demand had pushed GP out-of-hours and NHS 111 providers to ‘work together to explore ways to get more GPs to support contract centres at peak times’, it said.

NHS England admitted that it is aware that rising indemnity costs for out-of-hours work is ‘often a barrier to recruit’. It follows a study published in November said almost half of GPs are turning down out-of-hours shifts because of the high cost of indemnity cover.

NHS England’s bulletin said: ‘This winter has seen significant demand for local urgent care services. GP out-of-hours services and NHS 111 providers are working together to explore ways to get more GPs to support contract centres at peak times. NHS England is aware that rising indemnity costs for GPs working in an out-of-hours setting is often a barrier to recruit.

‘Where a provider is an NHS provider, GP indemnity can be covered through the NHS Litigation Authority. NHS England is piloting a scheme with the main medical defence organisations to reimburse indemnity costs to GPs committing to new out-of-hours sessions between now and 7 April 2015.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said he believed the details about the pilots had not been firmed up.

He said: ‘[T]his is something we’ve been working with them on but at the moment there are no details firmed up or definite time as to when it might start.

‘The overall aim is to reduce the additional indemnity burden for a GP doing OOH sessions, but it’s quite complex to achieve that.’

Medical defence organisations have said premiums have risen because of an increased risk of claims, as legal complaints against GP reached record highs last year.

This follows a scheme by Welsh health boards to lower GP out-of-hours indemnity costs via a risk-sharing system that has been effective in increasing the number of GPs willing to take on shifts.

This year, NHS England efforts to relieve the winter crisis has been hampered by a lack of GPs and hospitals were pleading with GPs to step in as they struggled to cope with demand.

GPs wanting more information on NHS England’s pilot can contact: