In July of this year, I blogged about the proposals at the time that GPs should have the benefit of government backed indemnity similar to the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts which covers Hospital treatment.
It appears that behind the scenes, intense talks between the various GP defence organisations and the Department of Health have resulted in an agreement that part of the GP indemnity will now be covered by a government backed scheme and this was announced by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health at the RCGP conference last week.
The scheme will not come into place for another 12-18 months and cover will only be for work provided under an NHS contract. It will not cover certain work such as complaints, GMC proceedings or inquests but it is designed to cover risks from clinical negligence claims arising from the provision of services to the NHS. This does reflect the increasingly blurred lines between primary and secondary healthcare , but some would say that for GPs to have the benefit of such a scheme, belies their status as individual profit making organisations that should cover their own risks, rather than the tax payer.
The background to the scheme is the increasing indemnity costs which are purportedly pushing GPs to reduce sessions and in turn inhibit recruitment of new GPs to practices. BMA figures for 2016 suggested that indemnity premium costs were on average £8000 per year. By comparison, the average premium for a solicitor’s firm in 2016 was £4737.50 (Professional Indemnity Insurance Research report 2016-17, 18 July 2017), 1.3% lower than the previous year. However, in the case of law firms, premiums have been falling due a reducing number of negligence claims.
If the GP scheme does indeed result in a reduction of the indemnity premiums payable by practices and allows them to expand their service then it will be a success.
However, it is important that defence organisations pass on a real reduction in monetary terms and that this is not at the expense of full and fair compensation for victims of medical negligence. The misguided recommendations from the MPS in their paper on Striking a Balance aims to limit compensation levels and does not recognise the full compensation scheme that has been embedded in UK law. I would hope that by the government stepping in to relieve the pressure on the insurers this aim will now be abandoned.