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NHS promises to address rising indemnity fees but stops short of full funding

NHS England is not going to cover GP indemnity costs as part of its general practice rescue deal, despite calls from the profession to do so, instead focusing on a ‘discussion’ to address rising fees.

It said it will consult with the profession, medical defence organisations, commerical insurers and the NHS Litigation Authourity to ‘consider potential solutions’, the General Practice Forward View has revealed.

NHS England proposals, to be put forward in full by July, will include looking at: how costs could be contained for individuals working under certain ‘clinical governance standards’; whether costs could be reduced to individuals under specific circumstances, such as for example GPs going part-time: and enabling the new larger multispeciality community practices (MCPs) to take on corporate indemnity covering all of their GPs under one policy.

As revealed by Pulse, private insurance providers are already signing deals with GP federations to cover indemnity fees at discount group rates, but the GPC has expressed that its preference is for GPs to remain in their defence schemes with the subs reimbursed ‘rather than a hybrid system of cover which could potentially leave the GP vulnerable in the event of a claim’.

The Forward View also reiterated the Government’s plan to consult on whether it could bring in a cap on costs that claimaint lawyers can recover from clinical negligence claims.

Addressing calls for Crown indemnity, NHS England said it did ‘not believe’ that this was actually ‘the intent of the profession’, as this would ‘mean it is not possible to sue for damages and that the small minority of patients who had suffered harm as a result of clinical negligence would not have recourse to any financial compensation’.

It said: ’Rather, we believe that the shared aim of those working in the NHS is to bring down the overall costs associated with negligence claims in an appropriate fashion…’

Having also highlighted NHS England’s £2m winter scheme to cover the cost of indemnity for extra out-of-hours shifts, which has led to tens of thousands more shifts being booked, the Forward View concludes: ’Taken together, this represents a significant programme of work to reform indemnity in general practice, addressing some short-term pressures whilst looking to bring down the overall costs to the system.’

A recent Pulse survey, of more than 900 GPs, showed that GPs paid an extra 26% more on average in indemnity fees last year, although the figure could be higher as many said they had cut shifts in response.

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