When it was announced that the Government was looking at a real solution to disastrous rising indemnity costs, there was a real feeling of positivity.
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But, I’ll be honest, the more I think about the unanswered questions with just over two months to go before its implementation, the less positive I feel.
We still need to know:
1. How will it be funded? The big question. We know that the BMA GP Committee and NHS England are in a stalemate about this. NHS England wants the funding to come out of the global sum, while the GPC wants it to be on top of existing funding. If NHS England win this battle, it renders it pretty much pointless. My interview with Matt Hancock provides little reassurance here.
2. Will it include run-off cover? You would hope that this is a given, considering run-off cover is what enables the medical defence organisations to charge the fees they do. But this has not yet been guaranteed.
3. Will it include run-off cover for MDU members now? You may remember, the MDU reduced its fees for its members when the state-indemnity scheme was announced, with the belief that the Government would fund run-off cover for incidents that took place in the transition period immediately before the state scheme is rolled out. The Government immediately said it wouldn’t.
Either way, there will be losers. The Government may relent – meaning members of the other indemnity schemes have every right to feel short changed – or it sticks to its guns, meaning MDU members will have to continue taking out an extra policy for future years. It has the potential to be a flashpoint.
4. What exactly will the state scheme cover? We don’t believe it will cover other practice staff, and there have been suggestions that it won’t cover things like fitness-to-practise hearings. So GPs are still unsure about what private cover they will need to take out.
The indications so far are that the Government wants to get away with the minimum on all these points. Mr Hancock’s comments – and the contention in the long-term plan that the scheme will be ‘cost neutral’ – suggest as much.
In which case, it bodes poorly not just for the scheme itself, but for the whole approach to general practice. Because if health bosses are not willing to invest part of that £4.5bn a year into this – a sensible idea that would immediately get GPs on side – then I fear what they will expect GPs to do to receive any funding.
Jaimie Kaffash is Editor of Pulse. You can follow him on Twitter @jkaffash