Next government must tackle GP indemnity costs, royal college says

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  18 May 2017


The next government must tackle rising GP indemnity costs, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, warned that indemnity costs were spiralling and that without action they had the potential to create a crisis in general practice. Unlike hospital doctors, GPs have to purchase their own medical indemnity.

In February, the lord chancellor, Elizabeth Truss, announced a legal change that critics said could add £1bn a year to the NHS bill for compensation.[1] A reduction in the “discount rate”—the rate that people receiving lump sums for personal injuries are expected to get if they invest the money—means that awards will have to be significantly higher to compensate. The change came into effect on 20 March.

In 2016, the RCGP carried out a survey of its members in England in relation to the cost of indemnity. The survey had around 1000 responses, and they showed that the average increase in the cost of indemnity between 2015/16 and 2016/17 was 17.3%.

Stokes-Lampard said that the current government had promised that no doctor would be worse off as a result of the new discount rate and she called on the future government to make the same commitment.

“We call on all political parties to pledge to honour this promise at the earliest possible opportunity, so that GPs are not faced with the prospect of having to pay massively higher bills,” she said. “We need urgent reform of a system that is becoming increasingly unsustainable and is getting in the way of GPs doing their jobs.”

This week, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) launched a “Save General Practice” campaign asking for urgent government support for GPs who would be affected by an increase in the size of clinical negligence claims.

In the letter to MDU GP members, Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the organisation, said that the change had added hundreds of millions of pounds to the cost of clinical negligence claims payable by all medical defence organisations. “The impact is profound,” she said. “For example, a claim that would have settled for £8.4m on the previous discount rate would now settle for £17.5m.”

Tomkins said that, despite the government’s commitment to protect GPs from a rise in indemnity costs, no solution had been announced. “With the general election underway, no announcement is possible until after the election and may not be forthcoming for months,” she said.

References

  1. Dyer C. New negligence claims service aims to resolve cases more quickly. BMJ  2017;356:j1503. [Link]   [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

 arimmer@bmj.com

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