GPs who have clinical negligence claims made against them under the new NHS indemnity scheme could see their information passed on to the GMC or NHS England for further investigation.
According to guidance on the new scheme, introduced by the Government in April, any information and data provided by a GP in relation to a claim can be ‘disclosed without restriction’ to regulatory organisations.
Before the state-backed scheme was introduced – when medical defence organisations (MDOs) handled all indemnity claims – there were no requirements for information to be passed on.
The Medical Defence Union (MDU) said it is ‘seriously concerned’ about the change and criticised NHS Resolution, which runs the new scheme, for failing to notify GPs.
It said it was particularly worried because ‘GPs who don’t provide information requested by NHS Resolution can be refused indemnity’.
The NHS Resolution guidance states: ‘Any persons making requests must provide such information to the administrator [NHS Resolution] in relation to a claim made against them together with any evidence requested by the administrator to verify the person’s status as an eligible person.
‘Persons making requests acknowledge and agree that by submitting a request any and all information and data (howsoever stored) provided by them to the administrator may be disclosed without restriction or conditions by the administrator, the secretary of state and/or their respective officers, agents, employees and sub-contractors for the purposes of the scheme, or as may be in the public interest, for example to make a report to regulatory organisations such as the GMC or to notify NHS England of concerns which may be managed by the performers list regulations.
‘For the avoidance of doubt, any such information provided to the administrator shall be and remain the property of the administrator.’
MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said it is concerning that the body that assists GPs with incident claims is allowed to use information provided in ‘good faith’ in the public interest.
She said: ‘We are seriously concerned that the body assisting GPs with claims from incidents after 1 April 2019 can use information provided by them in good faith to refer GPs to bodies such as the GMC or NHS England in the public interest. Especially as GPs who don’t provide information requested by NHS Resolution can be refused indemnity.
‘We expect most GPs have no idea that, if it thinks there is a public interest in doing so, NHS Resolution intends to share information provided for a claim with the GMC or for performers list or other investigations.
‘What’s more there are no plans to warn GPs their information is about to be shared or give them an opportunity to comment. We don’t think this is fair.’
The MDU said it had been told by NHS Resolution’s chief executive that information would only be passed on in rare circumstances and where there were serous concerns, such as a risk to patient safety.
But the MDU argued ‘there is no transparency about how such decisions will be made.’
NHS Resolution has been approached for comment.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced the state-backed scheme in October 2017 after acknowledging the cost of medical negligence cover was affecting GPs’ ability to work. Then health secretary Jeremy Hunt said at the time that it will be ‘more affordable and reliable‘.
Earlier this year, the Government revealed plans to overhaul clinical negligence cover for claims that fall outside of the new NHS indemnity scheme. It said it wants to see new rules brought in that mean MDOs are contractually obligated to take on cases – instead of the current situation where they can refuse to do so under certain circumstances.
In response, MDOs warned the proposals will increase costs ‘substantially’ for GPs.