Exclusive ‘Out-of-control’ GP indemnity costs have increased by more than a quarter in a year, show the results of a Pulse survey.
Indemnity fees rose by an average of 25.5% in the past 12 months leading up to November last year, according to an analysis of responses from more than 900 UK GPs.
But the increase could be even higher, as a large number of GPs said their fees had decreased because they had had to reduce the number of shifts they worked.
More than one in 10 respondents said their fees had more than doubled, and more than a quarter saw hikes in excess of 40% in the past year.
Medical defence organisations (MDOs) said that the figures were not representative, and they were seeing rises of around 10%.
However, these figures currently represent the best estimate so far of the rising burden of legal indemnity, as medical defence bodies have refused to provide comparable figures to Pulse.
Dr Zishan Syed, a GP partner in West Kent said his indemnity costs have increased by 60% in the past 12 months and said the MDOs needed to do more to challenge individuals who engage in campaigns of vexatious complaints against clinicians.
He added: ’Furthermore, the fact that they pick and choose what case to defend can leave a GP who has paid year after year of fees in the lurch with no defence.’
Dr Graham Scott, a GP locum in Warrington, said his fees had more than doubled, adding: ’‘I think that it is out of control and unfair. It needs serious regulation.’
Dr Ishwar Bhatia, a GP locum in Ipswich and East Suffolk, said: ’Compared to sessions worked, the amount has increased to double. A regular four sessions in surgery cost £5,100, and out of hours is more.’
Several GPs commented it was ’not worth increasing hours of work’ as the cost of indemnity was so high and they felt helpless to question fee rises.
A GP who did not want to be named said: ’There are no clear understandable rules for charges and because I don’t know how they work it out, I don’t have evidence for whether the charges are correct or not. I can’t complain as it is compulsory and we can’t work without indemnity.’
However, another GP who also wanted to remain anonymous, who saw a 20% increase in fees in the past year, said: ’When you’ve been through a complaint you realise how worthwhile it is, the support you get.’
The Medical Defence Union disputed the survey findings, claiming that average member subscription increases were lower, at around 10% a year. A spokesperson said: ’Long term, GP claims inflation has been running at over 10% year on year. Inevitably, this affects the subscriptions we need to collect to ensure our members’ peace of mind. Average subscription increases for our members reflect these trends rather than the figures your survey found.’
MDDUS also said most of its increases were smaller than 25%. A spokesperson said: ’MDDUS were able to limit subscription increases for the vast majority of our GP members to well below 20% this year. The numbers seeing increases at the level you quote were small – far smaller than the number of our Scottish members whose subscriptions were held stable.’
NHS England recently said it would reimburse GPs who take on extra out-of-hours shifts over winter under a temporary £2m scheme. A Pulse survey last year revealed that a year earlier half of GPs were already turning down out-of-hours shifts because the cover is too expensive.
The last LMCs Conference voted in favour of a motion for all GP indemnity costs to be covered all year round and the Government has looked into capping legal costs for small value claims.
How much have your indemnity fees changed in the past 12 months?
Increased by 100%: 3%
Increased by 80%: 3%
Increased by 60%: 5%
Increased by 40%: 14%
Increased by 20%: 28%
Increased by 10%: 15%
Stayed the same: 8%
Decreased by 10%: 1%
Decreased by 20%: 1%
Decreased by 40%: 0.5%
Decreased by 60%: 0.5%
Decreased by 80%: 0%
Don’t know: 190 21%
Total number of respondents: 922
The survey was launched on 26 October 2015, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 20 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 922 GPs answered this question.