State-funded Indemnity – What Does It Mean For GPs?

As you know, being a GP is a job with a lot of responsibility. More than ever, GPs are feeling the pressure when it comes to patient diagnosis to conduct what are sometimes considered to be unnecessary checks in order to avoid complaints. As more people try to take legal action, the question of indemnity has become an important one for GPs.

The Government’s plans to introduce state funded GP indemnity have come as a welcome relief to many in the profession, with its planned introduction looking set to be 2019. But what will the new changes mean for GPs?

Current GP indemnity concerns amongst GPs

In recent years, the way GPs referred patients was based on a case-by-case basis, with further tests being carried out before being referred to clinics and specialist departments. The volume of legal action taken against doctors for errors or mistakes was much lower than it is now, A culture shift has led to an increase in the amount of legal claims being made against GPs, changing their approaches to ensure that no stone is left unturned and the risk of being sued minimal.

While many claims will amount to nothing, the stress and bureaucracy involved in dealing with the claims is enough to make doctors more cautious. Having state-funded indemnity could allow GPs to breathe and conduct their roles in a more practical sense, rather than reacting to current fears and trends amongst patients.

With the cost of negligence claims to the NHS almost doubling from £583 million in 2008 to £1.4 billion in 2016, GP indemnity solutions are required in order to stop GPs walking away from roles due to the stress and time taken up with dealing with complaints.

Plans for state funded GP indemnity could be in place ‘by 2019’

In November, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced at the RCGP conference that plans for a state-backed GP indemnity deal were in place to help ease the rising cost of indemnity for GPs, currently sitting at around £8,000 a year. This has essentially been doubled over the last six years, and looks set to continue to rise. For GPs who are working both in and out of hours the estimated cost would be about £16,000.

As one of the top concerns for GPs, a more affordable indemnity arrangement could help to keep people in the profession, resolve issues causing GPs to work fewer hours and prevent them from turning down additional work.

With plans still in their infancy, initial indications from officials suggest that indemnity will be covered through the organisations that GPs work within as opposed to on an individual basis. This would cover those working on GMS, APMS and PMS contracts, as well as trainees and students, including out of hours. The indemnity would be in place to cover NHS-contracted work only, and GPs would require further indemnity for additional non-NHS work.

It’s expected that it will take between a year and 18 months in order to develop and implement the scheme, with major decisions still yet to be discussed. It is currently unknown who will administer the scheme, with NHS England or the Department of Health itself being possible suggestions.

A complete solution to an ongoing problem?

While the measures could signal good news for GPs currently struggling under the weight of indemnity, it will come at a cost of £300m annually. With costs looking set to keep rising, the next steps for the government should be to tackle some of the culture as causes that have led to this rise in the first place.

There are likely to be a number of developments over the coming months as plans begin to take shape, with further announcements from the Department of Health. The plans will be good news for those considering a career in out of hours medical practices, ensuring that they too will be covered by the state-backed GP indemnity.

If you’re interested in securing a role as an out of hours GP in East Berkshire, take a look at our recruitment pages for more information.