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GP indemnity lawyers want fixed legal fees for small claims

A leading medical indemnity provider is calling for fixed costs to be introduced for small value legal claims against GPs.

The Medical Protection Society has made the call amid concerns that the current system sometimes forces GPs to pay claimants more to cover their legal costs than they have been awarded in damages upon conclusion of a trial.

As an example, the MPS cited a recent case where a delayed skin cancer diagnosis saw a patient awarded damages of £30,000 but the GP in question was forced to pay £42,000 to cover the claimant’s legal fees throughout the five-month process.

The MPS is one of a number of defence organisations to increase subs in recent years, blaming increased levels of litigation.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said full-time UK GPs are ‘twice as likely’ to be sued in 2015 compared to seven years ago.

Commenting on the calls for system reform, he said: ‘It is not unusual for us to see legal costs far exceed patient compensation in small value claims.

‘This is simply not right. We want to see fixed costs for small value claims to ensure that legal costs do not dwarf compensation payments, and the money spent on patient care instead.’

The spiralling cost of medical indemnity fees, particularly for out-of-hours work, saw NHS England pilot a new risk-sharing scheme this year.