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GPs urged to lobby parliamentary candidates on indemnity costs

A medical defence organisation has warned of the danger of rising costs to GP indemnity, in light of actions by the Government.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has asked members to put pressure on parliamentary candidates to pledge to revert the Government’s amendement to the discount rate – the mechanism courts use to calculate the size of lump sum compensation payable to claimants.

It says this comes as a solution to the problem, which hikes the size of payouts by millions of pounds, could take months due to the general election – despite the Government promising to protect GPs from taking on the cost.

MDU chief executive Christine Tomkins said in a letter to members that the impact of the discount rate change from 2.5% to -0.75% was ‘profound’, adding that ‘a claim that would have settled for £8.4n on the previous discount rate would now settle for £17.5m’.

She said this comes despite strong lobbying from MDU and other organisations, and at a time when GPs are ‘under more pressure than at any time in the history of the NHS.’

She said: ‘Any further increases in subscriptions to fund this sudden and drastic change in the discount rate is simply unaffordable for you and your colleagues. The Government has committed to protect you from this unsustainable rise in indemnity costs that the Lord Chancellor’s decision has caused.

‘We have been in regular discussion with government departments since December, but no solution has been announced for GPs yet. With the general election underway, no announcement is possible until after the election and may not be forthcoming for months.’

In response, the MDU has launched a Save General Practice campaign ‘to ask for urgent government support for GPs who are facing the potentially devastating impact of a massive increase in the size of clinical negligence claims’.

Announcing the campaign, the MDU said in a statement: ‘The MDU is asking GPs to make sure this is a priority for the new government by raising this issue with parliamentary candidates. There is also a short survey for GPs to complete to give their views on indemnity costs.’

The Government first announced the discount rate change, that will see people receiving higher compensation payouts for personal injuries, in February.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘The Government has already given a clear and firm commitment that no doctor will be worse off a result of the new discount rate and we call on all political parties to pledge to honour this promise at the earliest possible opportunity, so that GPs are not faced with the prospect of having to pay massively higher bills.’

She added: ‘Every GP has the right to provide care to their patients, safe in the knowledge that they are protected by their insurance. Indemnity cover is already a significant financial burden on GPs so this potential hike in costs will come as a serious blow and cause great anxiety.’