I am today updating the House on recent developments regarding indemnity arrangements for NHS general practice in England.
The Government is committed to ensuring that general practice is an attractive long-term career option that gives stimulus and stability to our brightest medical graduates. Therefore, today I have announced that the Department of Health is planning, subject to examination of relevant issues, the development of a state-backed indemnity scheme for general practice in England.
Rising cost of indemnity is a great source of concern for General Practitioners (GPs). Our ambition is to deliver a more stable and more affordable system for GPs and their patients. The scheme could provide financially sustainable cover for future, and potentially historic, claims arising from the delivery of NHS services.
The Department has benefitted from the engagement with the four Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) and GP representatives over recent months. Any new scheme should meet the needs of current and future GPs, be in the interest of patients and represent value for money for taxpayers. Transfer of historic liabilities from MDOs to a new scheme would be dependent on satisfactory negotiation with the MDOs.
We will explore with GP representatives how to embed new indemnity arrangements, including the future costs, into GP contract negotiations. The Department will set up a stakeholder group and arrange a first roundtable next month with the Royal College of General Practitioners, British Medical Association and other GP representatives to gather views from General Practice and agree how best to engage with the sector going forward.
Any scheme would take at least 12-18 months to establish and require careful negotiation. GPs should continue to ensure they have appropriate indemnity cover in line with General Medical Council requirements to enable them to practise. NHS England has already committed to provide additional funding to GP practices to cover the estimated annual indemnity inflation for 2016/17 and 2017/18. NHS England has also announced additional money for indemnity cover over the coming winter.
Indemnity arrangements are a devolved matter and the Department will continue to liaise with the Devolved Administrations, who will make their own decisions about indemnity provision in their territories.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords