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GP medical defence costs rise to almost £7,000 per year

Exclusive GP medical indemnity costs have risen by over four times the rate of inflation in 2013, with an average annual premium of nearly £7,000 for the average GP partner.

Medical defence bodies approached by Pulse provided figures showing current average annual indemnity costs had risen by 13% for partners and 12% for salaried GPs, even though the current rate of inflation is 2.8%.

Medical defence bodies defended the indemnity costs rise, pointing to the rapid rise in the number of legal claims, which according to the Medical Protection Society was up by 40% in 2012.

But they also pointed out that recently enacted legislation clamping down on so-called ‘no win, no fee’ cases should reduce indemnity costs in time.

The rise in indemnity costs is slightly higher than last year when Medical Defence Union fees rose by 11% for salaried GPs and 3% for partners.

The MDU said the average cost of indemnity cover for for an eight-session GP partner in 2013/14 was now £6,975, compared with £6,200 in 2012. For an eight-session salaried GP legal indemnity costs had risen from £6,280 to £5,605.

The Medical Protection Society also said that their rates had risen, but refused to provide historical figures. It currently charges an average of £6,865 for an eight-session GP partner and £6,595 for a salaried GP working eight sessions.

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland said its current rates were £4,930 for a partner or salaried GP working seven to 10 sessions in England, but it would be reviewing prices in June.

MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said indemnity costs have continued to rise in order to meet the rising costs of claims.

She said: ‘We opened 15% more medical claims files in 2012 than 2011 and claims inflation is now running at over 10% per year, far exceeding other inflation measures.

‘The MDU is calling for legal change and a national debate in order to address the cost of compensation and its effects on the public interest.

‘Claimants’ legal costs - which in some no-win-no-fee cases are disproportionately high - are another contributing factor to high claims costs.

She added that legal aid reforms - stemming from the official review into civil litigation funding, including conditional fee arrangements -that came into force at the start of April should reduce legal costs in time, but warned: ‘It will take a while to work through to reduced legal costs as there are many cases still in the system under the old procedure rules.’

An MPS spokesperson said: ‘Subscription rates are set fairly so members only pay for the risk associated with their particular area of practice.

‘We understand the impact of members’ subscriptions on their professional practice and we work hard on members’ behalf to minimise the causes of increasing indemnity costs.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said rising indemnity costs were of ‘huge concern’ to GPs, and could be a contributor to the current recruitment crisis.

He said: ‘GPs are hugely concerned about the spiralling costs of indemnity insurance. It is one of the contributing factors when GPs decide whether to remain in the profession or not, particularly at the later stage of their career when the cost of indemnity protection can put into question the viability of continuing to practice as a locum in retirement.’

He added that the it will ‘take some time’ before the legal aid reforms concerning no-win-no-fee cases will have any effect on indemnity costs.

He said: ‘The Government needs to lead a wholesale review of the complaints process. We have yet to see what effect the legal aid reforms will have but it will not have any immediate effect on the cost of indemnity cover.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Put your questions on how to avoid a career-ending complaint to our panel of experts at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.