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GP morale hit by worrying rise in indemnity costs, MDU warns

Morale among GPs has been seriously damaged by an alarming rise in clinical negligence claims, the UK’s leading medical indemnifier has today stated.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum Keynote Seminar, ‘Key issues in clinical negligence: funding, early intervention and the future of NHS Resolution’, chief executive of the Medical Defence Union (MDU) Dr Christine Tomkins warned that compensation claims in England were amongst the highest in the world.

Medical indemnity is a problem that has been recognised as a major issue for the NHS, with the National Audit Office recently finding that current plans to curb its growth were unlikely to work.

Chief executive of NHS Confederation Niall Dickson has also stated that the NHS “can’t go on like this” as millions are lost every year from the rising cost of indemnity.

“The MDU’s GP members are facing unprecedented pressures,” Dr Tomkins said. “They are seeing more patients, with increasingly complex medical conditions and it is a tribute to them that professional standards remain so high.

“All this when there is an acute shortage of GPs, partly because indemnity costs are forcing early retirement or change of practice mid-career.

“On top of this, the legal environment promotes litigation over resolving concerns in other ways and stimulates increasing numbers of claims. It makes the job intolerable for some, and GPs are powerless to do anything about it.”

The MDU boss also stated that the current system benefits no one. During 2016, in 85% of the medical claims the MDU closed, the patient had not been negligently damaged and the claim against an MDU member did not succeed.

“This must have been distressing for the claimants and equally distressing for doctors who were subjected to the claims process,” she argued. “We must move to a fairer way of doing things.

“We have long argued that only radical legal reform will halt the rising costs of claims and restore some equilibrium to the system and have been fighting for this through our Fair Compensation campaign.

“Claimants must be adequately compensated but the compensation must be fair and must not damage the access to healthcare we all need.”

The MDU will be writing about this growing problem in the upcoming September/October issue of NHE. Make sure to subscribe to receive the magazine digitally or in print here.

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