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GPs to have indemnity costs covered for out-of-hours shifts through winter

Exclusive GPs signing up for extra out-of-hours shifts this winter will be able to have their medical indemnity costs covered by NHS England, as part of a £2m temporary scheme.

NHS England said the scheme, set to run from this month and until March 2016, comes in response to out-of-hours providers struggling to fill shifts.

This is due to the increasing cost of indemnity outside of core hours, acting as ’a barrier to delivering care’.

NHS England acknowledged that this was not a long-term solution to the problems with increasing indemnity costs

However, it said it was making £2m available ’to help with immediate out-of-hours provision while longer-term solutions are implemented’.

Worked out in co-operation with medical defence organisations, the NHS England Winter Indemnity Scheme will ’offset the additional indemnity premium for GPs who wish to work additional shifts for their out-of-hours providers’, NHS England said.

GPs wanting to make use of the scheme will be able to access it via their MDO’s website, once their additional hours have been confirmed with their out-of-hours provider, and MDOs will invoice NHS England directly for the added costs on a monthly basis.

Director of NHS commissioning Rosamond Roughton said: ’Rising indemnity costs are having a serious impact on GPs as well as stifling innovation in primary care delivery.

’We are determined to help resolve this issue and this announcement is just part of the work we are doing with our partners to further support GPs and the wider care primary care workforce.’

The initiative follows on from a pilot project last winter, during which some GPs working out of hours saw their indemnity costs covered for a limited time, as providers struggled to fill shifts.

The Family Doctor Association has warned of an impending ’meltdown’ in out of hours this winter as a result of indemnity fees rising by as much as a quarter year-on-year, making it unaffordable for doctors to commit to extra shifts.

The last LMCs Conference voted in favour of a motion for all GP indemnity costs to be covered all year round – as is the case for hospital doctors – as indemnity cover for out of hours was reported to cost as much as £35 per hour.

In the longer term, the GPC fears that the Government’s pledge to provide routine seven-day access for all patients will put an even higher strain on indemnity costs.

Longer term solutions proposed by the Department of Health as well as MDOs themselves included fixing or capping legal costs for small-value claims, amid reports of cases where lawyers charged the MDO more in fees than the patient received as compensation.

GP leaders have warned that rising cost of indemnity is another deterrant for GPs to join general practice and a Pulse survey recently revealed that half of GPs turn down out-of-hours shifts because the cover is too expensive.