Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, has spoken out about the rising cost of negligence claims against GPs.
Mr Chalk highlighted the issue during Health Questions in Parliament, after hearing of the impact on GP surgeries in Cheltenham. In one case, a local GP reported a 17% annual increase to maintain medico-legal cover.
Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of both claims and costs made against GPs. GPs do not have NHS indemnity and are required to make their own arrangements for clinical negligence.
According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, rising indemnity costs are increasingly contributing to GPs leaving the profession and are acting as barriers to providing out-of-hours services.
Alex Chalk said: “It is absolutely right that a patient who suffers as a result of negligence should be properly compensated. But, as NHS England confirm, rising indemnity costs are having a serious impact on GPs as well as stifling innovation in primary care delivery.”
“So this week I asked the Health Minister to confirm what progress the Department of Health is making on identifying and addressing the root causes of the problem.”
The Department of Health and NHS England recently carried out a General Practice Indemnity Review to examine the extent of inflation on GP indemnity, its causes, and to identify proposals for improving the situation.
Responding to Mr Chalk, Health Minister David Mowatt MP confirmed that the Government is “considering a number of policy options to address rising costs, one of which is a Fixed Recoverable Costs Scheme that would limit recoverable legal costs in clinical negligence claims. A consultation on this measure will be launched shortly. Work on other policy options will continue over the next year.”
Alex Chalk commented: “I’m encouraged that the Government has grasped this nettle and is looking for solutions, including a limit on legal costs. The Medical Defence Union (MDU) told me of one case where the patient received £4,200 and the lawyers' fees were a further £70,000."
Alex Chalk added: “In ‘high value’ cases, the amount of compensation is based on the cost of private provision. One suggestion is that the law should be changed so that compensation is assessed and based on the availability and purchase of NHS and local authority care packages.”