Changes to the indemnity system in Northern Ireland are looking ‘positive’, the head of the BMA GP committee in Northern Ireland has said.
Talks are underway between the BMA NI GPC and the Government in Northern Ireland to secure state-backed indemnity for GPs across the country.
Unlike in other parts of the UK, GPs in Northern Ireland are not covered by a state-backed scheme and pay thousands of pounds a year to be covered for clinical negligence.
In England and Wales, the system was changed in 2019 so that state-backed schemes automatically cover all GPs if they are providing NHS services. In Scotland, indemnity costs are lower, and there is no state-backed scheme.
The indemnity issue has been high on the BMA’s agenda for the last few years in Northern Ireland. It is only with the Government’s reinstatement in January this year that they have been able to push ahead with negotiations.
Dr Alan Stout, chair of BMA NI GPC, told Pulse that the Government is aware of the need for state-backed indemnity for GPs and ‘wants to change it’.
He said: ‘We hope we are going to get it, we have absolutely no confirmation as yet, but we have discussed it on a number of occasions with the Department. Now we have a minister we are hopeful that we will get a favourable decision.’
One of the most significant factors in terms of the cost of the indemnity for GPs in Northern Ireland is the ‘discount rate’ proposal which would see the discount on indemnities lowered, increasing costs for GPs.
Dr Stout said: ‘The estimate was that the cost to an individual would possibly double, if not triple, their already high level. It would make it unaffordable; nobody could afford the indemnity as a personal expense.’
Although there is no timeframe for when the state-backed scheme would come into play, the Government is currently reviewing the proposals.
Dr Stout added: ‘Hopefully we will end up with a state-backed indemnity scheme not dissimilar to the English scheme.’