The spiralling costs of medical indemnity payments has become an unsustainable burden on general practice, the BMA annual representative meeting has heard.
BMA GPs committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey (pictured above, left) said that indemnity costs were one of the key components of the wider crisis in general practice, and that the Department of Health needed to respond by introducing a system of full reimbursement.
He said: ‘GPs are quitting or cutting back on their sessional commitments because it saves them thousands of pounds a year … It’s time that GPs were no more exposed to the rising costs of indemnity than doctors in hospitals.'
Dr Vautrey said fees had increased by an average of 10 per cent last year, with the figure often worse for out-of-hours GPs and challenge fund sites, resulting in fewer GPs offering fewer appointments.
He said: ‘While it’s not without its difficulties in a complex situation, a fully reimbursed scheme where the NHS directly reimburses a GPs’ medical defence organisation bill would go some way to take the pressure off GPs.
‘At this time of crisis it’s time for bold and swift action.’
Who's in charge?
Middlesbrough GP John Canning said that, while he was broadly in favour of a move towards a system of reimbursement, he remained cautious about potential unintended consequences.
He said: ‘My big worry about a system of direct reimbursement is who would be in charge?
‘The danger is we [GPs] lose control and it becomes a Government-led system which does not protect GPs. We have to protect GPs … [and] we lose that control at our peril.’
Dr Vautrey responded by saying that there were already numerous areas where GPs were reimbursed such as drug and premises costs, which did not undermine GP’s responsibilities or decision-making abilities in those areas.
The BMA issued guidance to GPs in May in order to help the profession deal with the increasing costs.
A report produced by the association in tandem with medical defence organisations found year on year rises in negligence claims being made against doctors.
Read the BMA’s guidance on indemnities
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