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What you need to know about the new state-backed indemnity for GPs

Jan 29, 2019

GPs in England and Wales are facing changes to the way in which they get the indemnity they need to do their job.

The Government is still in negotiations over new proposals for a state-backed indemnity scheme, which is likely to be introduced in April this year.

While the Medical Defense Society has been engaged in talks about the changes – and has until now been focussed on representing members’ best interest in these – we think it’s important for GPs to be aware of the broad details of the proposed changes ahead of April .

What the state-backed indemnity scheme aims to provide

The Government’s scheme is being designed to provide indemnity from:

  • cases of clinical negligence…
  • …arising from the NHS activities that fall in scope of the scheme.

Both points are important to bear in mind when it comes to considering the cover you need as a GP – and we’ll come to that in a moment.

Why is the Government introducing a state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs?

The Government says it is acting to try to reduce the cost of indemnity to reduce a potential barrier when it comes to finding and keeping new GPs.

The idea is to introduce something similar to the NHS indemnity scheme that has existed for hospital doctors since 1990.

When it comes to cost, reports suggest that the average price of an indemnity for a GP has risen to about £8,000 a year. Medical Defense Society, which was set up by GPs for GPs, agrees with the need to reduce this cost – and has helped hundreds of members to already reduce the cost of their indemnity.

What won’t be covered by the state-backed indemnity scheme?

The Government’s scheme aims to cover clinical negligence for NHS work – which means it’s important for GPs to consider what’s outside this remit and how to protect themselves for this.

Before we do that, it’s worth considering the detail of what will be covered.

The Government’s advice states the new scheme will cover:

  • Clinical negligence liabilities for all GP staff delivering primary medical services (under GMS, PMS and APMS contracts)
  • Out of hours services under an APMS contract
  • Public health services in arrangement with the local authority such as health visits for toddlers and sexual health services.

That offers useful clarity for GPs – and it’s important to stress that there are no plans for the state-backed indemnity scheme to cover:

  • Non-NHS work – such as work for the DVLA or medical assessments for employees
  • Support for proceedings and inquiries with the General Medical Council
  • Representation at inquests
  • Court proceedings.

While a GP might be covered for a civil matter, therefore, they still need to consider cover for criminal and professional cases that may arise from negligence claims.

Indeed, it’s estimated that as many as 60% of claims might fall outside of the remit of the cover offered in the state scheme.

What about the rest of the UK?

The English and Welsh Governments are both looking to introduce state-backed indemnity schemes in April 2019. There are, as yet, no plans announced to match this in Scotland – where costs are traditionally lower – or Northern Ireland.

Will it work?

The Medical Defense Society is happy to support any policies that help our members. However, there are concerns about the way this is being funded. Taking money for a state-backed indemnity scheme from the existing GP budget does not appear to match with the overall objective of reducing the cost for GPs.

It’s important to stress that there are still details to be decided when it comes to this policy. It’s also worth noting that some of the factors that have contributed to the rising cost of indemnities won’t be directly addressed by this move – and that issues such as lawyers fees, tort law and changes to the discount rate on negligence payouts all need to be addressed separately.


If you want to discuss the state-backed indemnity scheme – or any other matters relating your cover as a GP – get in touch with us. We’ll also aim to update you further once details are confirmed by the Government.