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Out-of-hours group increased recruitment threefold after offering GPs free indemnity

Exclusive An out-of-hours provider offering GPs free indemnity cover has boosted recruitment threefold since deciding to shoulder the cost six months ago.

GPs working for Vocare, a provider of GP out-of-hours services as well as urgent care centres across England, have had all of their out-of-hours shift work covered by the provider for the last six months after it struck a deal with a private insurance company.

It said it recruited 175 GPs to work out of hours in the past six months, compared to just 60 in the six-month period prior when it was struggling to fill shifts.

A survey by Urgent Health UK recently found that four out of five out-of-hours GPs said spiralling indemnity fees are limiting the number of out-of-hours shifts they’re willing to do.

Vocare said it had signed the deal after struggling to fill shifts and, after asking GPs why they were unwilling to take on out-of-hours work, the rising cost of indemnity was a key issue. 

GPs working for Vocare still have to indemnify themselves for their regular in-hours work but reduce their overall premiums with medical defence organisations by not having to buy cover for out-of-hours work.

A spokesperson for Vocare said: ’It has been about six months since it was introduced and in that time Vocare has recruited 175 GPs across the country. At a time when GPs are in short supply this is a large number.

’The comparative figure for the six months before was 60 – so there has been nearly three times the number of GPs recruited since the indemnity deal.’

Vocare chief executive John Harrison said the recruitment success showed there are ’still GPs willing to work for out-of-hours services which is great news for patients around the country’.

He said: ’At time when GP recruitment is at an all-time low, we have been extremely happy with the numbers we have been able to recruit. We didn’t understand the high costs of indemnity quoted by medical defence organisations to GPs who want to work in out-of-hours services.

’Locktons undertook a thorough and full audit of our services before agreeing to the indemnity deal and it showed that we are performing to the highest standards.We were pleased that the cost came in at a level which means that we can provide indemnity to our GPs at no additional cost to them.’

Dr Charlotte Jones, who is the GPC executive’s lead on urgent care, said: ‘Anything that helps recruitment and retention of GPs whether doing unscheduled work out of hours or in other environments is to be welcomed.’

The problems with out-of-hours indemnity

GPs on call - OOH - out of hours - urgent care - online

GPs on call – OOH – out of hours – urgent care – online

The issue of out-of-hours indemnity became stark last year, after a series of links were made between the out-of-hours recruitment crisis and rising indemnity fees.

Pulse revealed that one out-of-hours GP claimed that they had been quoted premiums of up to £30,000 by the medical defence organisations.

Elsewhere, a survey of 430 out of hours GPs by out-of-hours provider group Urgent Health UK found 79% were limiting the number of out-of-hours shifts they undertake because of clinical indemnity premiums.

Even the Government acknowledged the problems, implementing a £2m temporary winter scheme covering the increases in indemnity costs for GPs taking on extra shifts until the end of March.

A recent Pulse survey of GPs found indemnity fees have spiralled ‘out of control’ with rises of a quarter in the past year, although medical defence organisations argued average rises were closer to 10%.