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Membership growth marks huge vote of confidence from GPs

Membership growth marks huge vote of confidence from GPs

Medical Defense Society membership numbers have jumped 70% during a strong period of growth in 2018/19.

The rise in members for the year to April can be revealed as MDS gets ready to celebrate its second anniversary in July and starts to become a recognised alternative to the existing MDOs.

Membership numbers grew steadily throughout the year, with a particular spike during the traditional renewal period of the summer as well as in December and April.

GPs buying into vision

CEO Rohan Simon said: “It’s clear that GPs like the fact that there’s an MDO out there that was created by fellow GPs and keeps their interests at the forefront of its thinking at all times.

“This was the vision we had for the company from the very start and it’s heartening to see so many GPs buying into that.

“We see this strong growth as a huge vote of confidence from GPs and we’re keen to repay that faith by continuing to provide the very best service for our members.”

The topic of GP indemnity has been highlighted in 2019, with the Government introducing a state-backed scheme to cover some of the work carried out by GPs.

However, with this scheme not covering several key aspects of a GP’s work – such as support for proceedings and inquiries with the General Medical Council and representation at inquests – it’s vital that they select an indemnity provider that can look after their needs.

Exciting plans for growth

Mr Simon added: “We have exciting plans in place for the rest of 2019 and beyond and we look forward to sharing those soon as we continue to grow the MDS family.

“We know how important it is for GPs to retain their MDO membership to cover the parts of their jobs that aren’t included in the Government scheme and we’re confident that we can give them the support they need to be able to go about their jobs with support, security and peace of mind.”

MDS members can save money on their indemnity through our new referral scheme. If they refer a new GP to MDS then both parties get 5% discount. The discount applies for up to four referrals, meaning members can earn up to 20% off their membership costs.

Want to find out more about what MDS has to offer? Get in touch.

Sustained fall in UK GP numbers

Sustained fall in UK GP numbers

The number of GPs in the UK is falling in a sustained way for the first time in more than 50 years, according to new research.

Analysis by the Nuffield Trust on behalf of the BBC shows that there are now 60 GPs per 100,000 people in the UK – which is down from 64 just five years ago and means that the average doctor now has 125 more patients to look after than they did in 2014.

If the overall total of GPs had actually kept pace with population growth since 2014 then there would have needed to have been 3,400 more people in the profession.

This relative-to-population fall comes despite a rise of about half a million GP appointments in November 2018 compared to the previous November.

Regional figures also show a big disparity in different parts of the UK, with the East of England and North West London having just 54 GPs per 100,000 people compared to 76 in Scotland.

‘We need to keep skilled GPs in the profession’

MDS CEO Rohan Simon said: “This analysis shows it’s vitally important that we look after our existing GPs and keep skilled people in the profession. Medical Defense Society was established to stand up for GPs and help to ease the burden of indemnity costs, one of the factors that was contributing to GPs leaving their roles.

“This continues to be our mission as we offer the continued support and advice that GPs need for all of the important work they do that falls outside of the state backed indemnity scheme.

“We hope that more can be done to look after GPs and ensure that this fall reverses.”

Nuffield Trust director of strategy Helen Buckingham said that within the next five years the UK could be 7,000 GPs short. She pointed to a number of factors causing the drop in numbers including:

  • the after-effect of a decrease in training places
  • the number of GPs who have taken early retirement
  • the trend of people leaving after they’ve qualified without going on to work as an NHS GP

The BBC noted that the NHS had previously been struggling to attract junior doctors to become GPs, with as many as one in ten training places empty.

That issue has eased now, and the 3,500 trainee posts taken up last year is up 800 on 2014. However, with it taking three years to train a junior doctor to become a GP, that will take a while to filter through.

‘Disheartening but not surprising’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These figures are disheartening but will be unsurprising for GPs – and their patients – across the country who are feeling the impact of relentless workforce pressures in general practice on a daily basis.

“There is some excellent work ongoing to boost recruitment into general practice and as a result we have more GPs in training that ever before. But GPs cannot be trained overnight, and whilst we wait for the next generation of family doctors to enter the workforce, existing GPs and our teams are struggling to manage escalating workloads without enough time or the resources to deal with them.

“Demand for GP services is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity – and when this is compounded by falling GP numbers, it creates a perfect storm that is leading to GPs becoming stressed and burning out, and in many cases leaving NHS general practice far earlier than they might otherwise have done.

“More must be done to keep our hard-working, experienced GPs in the profession for longer – not only are they vital to delivering vital care to over a million patients a day, but they have a huge amount of wisdom to impart to new colleagues.”

Measures needed to help GPs

GP numbers were falling in the late 1960s but then grew continuously for about four decades before peaking at 66.5 in 2009. Numbers have now fallen for four consecutive years.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said the situation for GPs is not all negative, but more must be done to address the fall in GP numbers.

She added: “We are optimistic about the future of general practice: the financial commitment to primary and community care in the NHS long-term plan in England; the new five-year GP contract which promises that money will get to the front line; and pledges to ensure greater investment in technology are all part of a jigsaw that should help keep the NHS sustainable for the future. But GP numbers, which as this research shows are still falling, cannot be ignored.

“We need see more measures implemented to genuinely tackle soaring workload as a matter of urgency and efforts redoubled to cut red tape that diverts time away from patients, and we need to make the working environment in general practice supportive and sustainable, so that family doctors aren’t forced out of the profession. This would not just be in the best interests of GPs, but the NHS as a whole, and most importantly, our patients.”

MDS CEO Rohan Simon said: “MDS was created by GPs so we understand the pressure felt by our members – and what’s needed to look after their needs. We’re keen to ensure our GPs are happy and would welcome contact from anyone who needs further advice about coping with their workload.”

If you’re a GP and would welcome the services of an indemnity provider that was set up by GPs purely to look after GPs then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Referral scheme gives GPs chance to save 20% on indemnity

Referral scheme gives GPs chance to save 20% on indemnity

GPs can save up to 20% off the cost of their indemnity thanks to a new referral scheme.

Medical Defense Society, the only MDO designed and established by GPs for GPs, is looking to reward members who can help to attract new members.

If any MDS member refers a new GP then both parties – the new and existing member – will receive 5% discount off their membership costs.

Each MDS member is able to refer up to four new GPs as part of the referral scheme, meaning that they can save up to 20% in total.

Rewarding our members

MDS CEO Rohan Simon said: “We’re extremely grateful to our existing members for the role they have played in helping to establish our business. From the very start, we wanted to offer a membership service that gave a fairer deal for GPs and we’ve been able to deliver on that promise thanks to the support from the GPs who put their faith and trust in us.

“We’re always delighted to hear your positive feedback and we know that your personal recommendations play a powerful role in persuading others to join the MDS family.

“That’s why we were keen to launch this referral scheme and reward you for playing your part.

“We’re confident that we can impress GPs with our dedicated indemnity service and that, together, we can continue to grow.”

Many GPs have been considering a review of their indemnity in light of the new state-backed scheme.

If you want to find out more about what MDS’ cover includes or wish to discuss the referral scheme in greater detail, contact us today.

Private vs NHS work in a GP practice: What’s changed?

Private vs NHS work in a GP practice: What’s changed?

The rules surrounding private healthcare services delivered by GPs have now changed, amid fears of a ‘blurring’ of the lines between NHS and non-NHS work.

As part of widespread changes to the GP contract, NHS England has decided to ban the advertising and hosting of private GP services from April 1.

The 2019/20 GP contract states: “To safeguard the model of comprehensive NHS primary medical care, from 2019 it will no longer be possible for any GP provider either directly or via proxy to advertise or host private paid-for GP services that fall within the scope of NHS funded primary medical services.

“NHS England will consult in 2019 on expanding this ban on private GP services to other providers of mainly NHS services.”

What the changes mean for GPs

It’s important to recognise that this doesn’t bar GPs from all non-NHS work. Indeed, a full range of services – from medical reports for insurance to physiotherapy and signing passports will still be a natural part of life for a great many GPs.

However, this stops practices from being able to charge patients for services that are free under the NHS or to get quicker access to their GP. It’s about making it completely clear as to what is available under the NHS and what isn’t – and therefore incurs a charge to the user.

There has been a rise in private treatments offered by GPs in recent years. The Guardian reported that demand for this has been growing after cuts and cost savings instigated by the NHS.

Private providers have offered GP access

Online private GP services have sprung up to offer people out of hours access to a doctor over the internet.

These services are reportedly particularly popular among millennials, with many young people preferring to pay than wait for an appointment. Practice Business noted that three quarters of patients in a network of private clinics were aged between 20 and 39.

It quoted Dan Faber, founder, DocTap, as saying: “Patients are out of patience and they are no longer prepared to wait for or travel to an NHS appointment. They want to see a doctor on their terms and they want to choose the doctor that they want to see. It is clear that the existing NHS GP model is outdated and is unable to service the new millennial generation who want convenience.”

Confidence in the GP service

The NHS England and the British Medical Association in a bid to ‘maintain patient confidence’ in the GP service and set a clear distinction between what is and isn’t allowed.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “While the BMA represents the breadth of the medical profession, including private practitioners, we have been concerned at the increasing blurring in recent years between NHS and private GP services offered to patients, particularly with the opportunities digital technology is providing.

“This change will provide clarity for patients about what treatment is available on the NHS and what they have the option of paying for privately.

“Both NHS England and the BMA want clarity for patients about what are free NHS GP services and what are not, and we are determined to maintain patient confidence in the integrity of general practice.”

GPs need indemnity for all of their work

The new rules offer a welcome clarification on the dividing lines between NHS and private work. This debate also goes to emphasise that there is much non-NHS work that naturally falls at the feet of GPs – work that will continue unchanged.

This is important to bear in mind when it comes to the new state-backed indemnity scheme, which only covers cases of clinical negligence that come from NHS activities within the scope of the scheme. That means that any non-NHS work is not covered by the Government’s scheme and this is one of the many reasons why GPs will still need to maintain their membership with an MDO.

Why it’s important to review your indemnity

Why it’s important to review your indemnity

We’re delighted to be able to help our GPs to go about their work safe in the knowledge that they have the cover and support that they need.

We’re also confident that more GPs would benefit from joining the MDS family. However, we also know that GPs are busy people – we’re GPs too after all – and indemnity has, traditionally, not been something that many GPs have reviewed on a regular basis. Many of you had to settle for one of the ‘big three’ and stick by your choice out of necessity so that you were legally able to go about your work.

This is part of the reason why we set MDS up. We wanted to offer more choice and to break up an old system that didn’t seem fit for purpose. We vowed to give the best service and the best value for GPs and we’re proud to be doing that for our members.

Intrigued? Here’s what we think you’ll get from reviewing your GP indemnity in order to consider giving MDS a chance.

You can save money on your indemnity

Let’s not kid ourselves, we appreciate that everyone is after a good deal and that clearly means not paying over the odds.

We were staggered to see that the average cost of a GP indemnity had risen to about £8,000 a year – and we’ve been able to come up with a pricing model that has saved 10 to 30% a year for our GPs.

With so much scope for savings, there’s a genuine financial reason to have a review and ensure you’re getting the best value for money.

The Government is changing things

Even if you had no intention of thinking about your indemnity, the Government’s recent actions have made this a necessity.

From the beginning of April, a new state-backed indemnity scheme will be available to cover cases of clinical negligence.

While we welcome this – it’s important that GPs are aware that the cover will not extend to General Medical Council inquiries, NHS England investigations or inquests and court proceedings. It also doesn’t cover medico-legal advice or non-NHS work, so that means things such as DVLA work or employee medicals fall outside the state scheme’s scope. In short, there’s still an acute need for MDO cover.

The reforms – which are part of wider changes to the GP contract – are likely to naturally prompt a review of the cover you need and the obvious extension of this is to weigh up the policies offered by alternative providers too.

We’re just for GPs

We think that GPs deserve indemnity provider who understands their job, is proud to protect their professional reputation and is dedicated to serving their specific needs.

We don’t think the old established order was able to do that – they’re focussed on medical professionals more generally – and that’s why we’re created by GPs for GPs, offering that bespoke service that GPs deserve and need.

In our mission statement we vow to DEFEND:

Defend and respect the GP voice
Empower our staff
Friendly customer service for each member
Empathy with each member during a time of crisis
Nimble, being agile to deliver a personalised approach whenever we can
Desire to be the best

We feel that reviewing your indemnity gives you the option to consider the level of service you receive and embrace a GP-centred indemnity.

We’re offering a referral scheme

Our new referral scheme offers another great reason to consider reviewing your GP indemnity at the earliest available opportunity.

If any of our members refers another GP to us then – to show our gratitude for helping to grow the MDS family – we’ll offer both parties a 5% discount off their membership costs.

Our members can refer up to four GPs each – meaning that they can earn up to 20% off their membership.


Convinced? Why not get in touch so that we can explain our membership offering in full and help you to get the benefit of a cost effective indemnity that is especially designed for GPs.

The new GP contract: What else is in the Government’s five-year plan?

The new GP contract: What else is in the Government’s five-year plan?

The Government’s five-year contract for GPs marked the biggest reforms for our service for 15 years.

As we reported at the time, a key announcement involved the introduction of a new state backed indemnity scheme.

However, this was far from the only measure outlined. In this guide, we’ll give you a summary of the rest of GP contract and a flavour of the reaction to it.

New GP contract: The key points

NHS England’s announcement included:

  • New recruits: 20,000 more staff will be enlisted to support GPs. These staff – a mix of pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing link workers – are intended to help GP practices form a local ‘primary care network’. The theory is that GPs will be freed up to spend more time with patients and practices will be able to offer more services. Setting up these networks could cost £1.8 billion by 2023.
  • Digital first: NHS England vowed that every patient will get the right to ‘digital-first primary care’ by 2021. This will mean increased provision of online consultations – and extra IT support to help provide this. Patients will also be able to get digital access to their full records from 2020.
  • Reform to phone lines: With 111 calls able to make direct bookings into GP surgeries.
  • Clinical reform: New changes were announced to the GP Quality and Outcomes Framework. The Government says these will look at diabetes, blood pressure control and cervical screening – with plans to focus on heart failure, asthma, COPD, and mental health in the future.
  • Earnings transparency: Extra public scrutiny of NHS earnings – and a new process to prevent ‘unexpectedly high or low earnings’.
  • Avoidable A&E: A new £300 fund should see GP practices benefit from their role in cutting avoidable A&E attendance and outpatient appointments.

The reaction to the GP contract

Understandably, this new contract has prompted a flurry of interest and reaction. Here’s a flavour of what some key figures have said:

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “This five-year deal unarguably represents the biggest boost to primary care in more than fifteen years, giving patients more convenient services at their local GP surgery while breaking down the divide between family doctors and community health services. It provides the practical foundation for the big service improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan.

“Patients across England – in towns, villages and cities – will all begin to see the benefits, beginning this year. And it allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”

Ian Dodge, National Director for Strategy and Innovation at NHS England said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, and the NHS needs general practice to survive and thrive. Through this comprehensive deal, the BMA and NHS England have sought to solve the big problems that general practice faces, and make it possible to expand services for patients.

“Having a Long Term Plan has allowed us to come up with a five-year funding deal for primary care, for the first time in NHS history. And it is also a good deal for taxpayers, with money going directly into extra staff and services.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, said: “This Contract gives five-year funding clarity and certainty for practices while giving patients improved services. Primary medical and community care resources will increase by £4.5 billion by 2023-24 and rise as a share of the overall NHS budget. And this agreement confirms how much of this new investment will stabilise and transform primary care through general practice and the evolution of Primary Care Networks. It’s a game changer and signals the start of a new era for general practice.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want the NHS always to be there for us when we need it. That means better access to GPs. This new contract provides certainty and security for all those working in general practice, and better, more modern access for patients.

‘GPs are the bedrock of the NHS and I want every patient to be able to access a GP quickly and increasingly online. Today’s agreement, building on our Long Term Plan for the NHS, backed by an extra £20.5 billion a year, will make that a reality.

“Everybody should be able to access a GP when they need to, in a way that suits them – and from embracing digital technology, to providing more flexible options for booking and attending appointments – we are giving greater power to patients to get the care that is right for them.”

Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Investing in general practice is investing in the entire health service – and this new contract promises to do just that, in the best interests of our profession, the sustainability of the NHS, and the care we deliver to more than a million patients a day across the country.

“We also welcome the focus on collaborative working with a range of highly-skilled members of the GP team, to support our work and free up our time to deliver care to patients who need our expertise – as well as with other practices in the same locality.”

Kent LMC chair, Dr Gaurav Guptatold Pulse: “I think this five-year contract deal can help stabilise the profession and the state backed indemnity will go some way in easing the recruitment crisis. Practices need to be at the centre of and lead primary care networks for full benefits of the deal to be realised. Much more work is needed to make general practice sustainable for the future but this deal is a good step in the right direction.”

A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association said: “We are fully behind the principle that multi-disciplinary working, designed locally, based around the patient and delivered in the community, is the best way to deliver transformative improvements in health care.

“So, we will work with colleagues across the sector to support our members to engage with primary care networks, which are becoming a very significant part of the NHS infrastructure.

“However, today’s announcement intensifies the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy owners who invest in training and development only to see people migrate to general practice.  This is a risk that must be carefully managed, so that these new primary care workforce targets genuinely add to capacity.”

You can also read our reaction to the indemnity plans here.


What do you think of the GP contract? Do you support the Government’s plans? We’re keen to hear what you think.