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GPs who took up MDU ‘half-price’ indemnity offer will not need run-off cover

Exclusive GPs who took up the Medical Defence Union’s ‘half-price’ indemnity offer will not need to buy run-off cover when the new state-backed indemnity scheme is introduced in April, as long as they remain with the union until they retire.

The MDU has clarified the issue, following confusion around the future arrangements, after the union slashed it costs immediately after the Government announced its new state indemnity scheme in 2017.

It has said that any GP who stays with the MDU until NHS pensions scheme retirement age will be covered for any historic liabilities, but anyone who leaves the union will have to purchase seven years’ worth of run off cover.

An official NHS England letter this week seen by Pulse revealed the new GP indemnity scheme will not pick up historic liabilities, pointing out that GPs with claims made or claims paid cover will require run-off cover.

The letter, sent by NHS England director of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes, said GPs with occurrence based cover ‘do not need to take any further action in respect of “run-off” cover’.

However, those with ‘claims made or claims paid cover’ – which only covers incidents either reported or reported and concluded during a specific period, and includes the MDU’s current offering – will require run-off cover to ensure ‘complete historic cover’, unless their current indemnity provider says otherwise.

The MDU halved its fees in 2017, after then health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a new state-backed indemnity scheme, saying it expected claims arising since the announcement to be picked up by the new NHS scheme. 

The Government disputed this almost immediately, stating that it ‘does not currently plan to include this run-off cover in a state-backed scheme’ and warning GPs against leaving themselves uncovered for this period.

However, the MDU has now told Pulse that its members who are benefiting from the half-price deal have ‘sufficient membership’ and will not need to buy run-off cover as long as they remain with the organisation until the retirement age for the NHS pension scheme. 

GPs will have to continue to purchase indemnity for private work, and to receive medico-legal advice.

An MDU spokesperson said: ‘The vast majority [of our members] will not need to contact us to arrange run off cover at present. Where members have been on transitional benefits – that is all our English GP members – as long as they stay in membership they continue to notify claims from that period and there is no need for them to contact us to pay run off at this time.

‘It’s only in very specific circumstances at present that members would need to pay run-off. Provided that people remain in membership there is nothing they need to do in terms of run off cover.’

According to the spokesperson, the MDU – alongside other medical defense organisations –  is currently in discussion with the Government over the introduction of an ‘existing liability scheme’, which would pick up the historic claims against GPs.

However, even if this existing liability scheme does not come into effect, the current MDU subscription ‘would be sufficient to mean that people could continue to notify claims from the period when they were on transitional benefits’, the spokesperson said.

‘If they chose to leave the MDU at that stage and the Government agreed existing liability had not been put in place then GPs would start paying run-off payments, but as long as they remain in membership through to their retirement there will be nothing further to pay, being just part of the normal subscription,’ they added.

The MDU said if run-off cover is required – in the case that a GP wanted to leave the MDU – then it would be for a maximum of seven years, after which there would be no additional subscription to pay.