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Indemnity providers issue warnings over expected claims cost hike

GPs in Scotland could see their indemnity fees rocket after the Scottish government followed England’s lead and cut the discount rate applied to personal injury rates.

The move, which comes into force today, has the potential to see some large claims double in cost, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has warned.

In February the Lord Chancellor cut to the discount rate applied to personal injury claims from 2.5% to -0.75%.

Scotland has now put in place the same changes but there is yet to be any advice from the Government on if or how GPs will be protected from the potential indemnity cost hikes.

Ministers in England made a two-year commitment to bear the cost of any indemnity cover increases for GPs and have indicated this will continue past 2019.

The MDU said because the change in the law effects all cases settling from today onwards, it will mean increased costs for existing claims that have not yet been paid, and also claims yet to arise from years ago.

Dr Hugh Stewart, MDU director of legal services and Scottish affairs, said: ‘The Scottish government has, overnight, increased the cost of claims against GPs, some of which may now double in cost.

‘Although GPs treat NHS patients, they pay for their own indemnity against claims and must be protected against the inevitable increase in indemnity costs that this change in the law will cause.’

The MDU said it was at this point unclear when GPs will see changes to their indemnity costs.

‘We are considering the impact of this decision carefully and will seek to work with the Scottish health and social care directorate to find a solution to protect our GP members.’

Chris Kenny, chief executive of the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland said: ‘Today’s reduction in the discount rate is good news for lawyers, but bad news for the NHS.

‘It is disappointing that Scottish ministers have chosen to follow their English counterparts in this potentially legally flawed decision, particularly when consultation on an improved system in England is expected in a matter of days.

‘We will be seeking urgent assurances from Scottish ministers about their plans for improvement, and how they plan to tackle the funding consequences for the NHS in Scotland and our members.’

Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said: ‘The previous change to the discount rate in England and Wales will cause significant problems for GPs there and it is extremely concerning that Scotland will now follow suit.

‘The health secretary made clear in her speech at [the Scottish LMCs] conference that she is engaged with this issue and now that this decision has been made, we are looking to the Scottish Government to ensure that these higher costs will be met in full.

‘At a time when we should be pulling out all the stops to make general practice a more attractive career, the last thing that GPs in Scotland need now is to be hit with higher indemnity bills. GPs must not be financially penalised as a result of this decision and we will be making that case strongly to the Scottish Government.’