The new GP indemnity scheme – a welcome addition
There has always been a difference between taking legal action against a hospital trust and an individual GP. GPs are often self-employed often and have their own private legal protection usually run via the Medical Protection Society or the Medical Defence Union. A clinical negligence case concerning care provided at a GP practice can sometimes involve several GPs and if action is taken against them independently it can involve several defence organisations and a convoluted tangle as to who did (or didn’t do) what and when. It can be unnecessarily difficult and costly where there are several GPs from the same practice involved.
In addition of course if a hospital also provided care (as is often the case) then that means there may be the NHS Resolution dealing with part of a claim and other defence organisations dealing with other matters. In a cost conscious legal environment this can increase costs significantly, while everyone is appraised of everyone else’s position and substantial duplication of medical evidence is obtained.
Therefore the new clinical negligence scheme for a general practice is a welcome addition to how clinical negligence is dealt with. This is a state indemnity scheme operated by NHS Resolution which also continues to deal with the trusts.
The scheme in fact came in to effect from 1 April 2019 but only covers incidents occurring on or after that date. Incidents which occurred before that date are covered by the GP’s medical defence organisation. If there are a series of events which are both before and after 1 April 2019 the new scheme only relates to those dates after 1 April. It will therefore take some time before GP claims are routinely dealt with under the scheme and there will be many cases where we still have several different organisations dealing the a claim.
The scheme covers GPs, locums, nurses, students, trainees, clinical pharmacists and other practice staff. It does not cover support for GPs at inquests or professional regulatory matters. It also does not cover GMC investigations. So GPs will still need their own defence organisation to provide some assistance. The scheme also doesn’t cover Ministry of Defence healthcare and high street pharmacy practices.
The scheme however also covers primary care delivered in prisons under a primary care contract which is helpful for those who deal with negligence in prison medical care.
It only covers clinical negligence claims.
The general request from NHS Resolution is that the practice itself should be sued rather than individual GPs. This process makes life much easier for all involved, both claimant and defendant.
For the claimant clinical negligence solicitor this is potentially a useful scheme. At a time when there is constant pressure to reduce costs in clinical negligence claims this has the potential to assist greatly. It also hopefully means that there will be some consistency in the approach to a GP practice being potentially negligent rather than perhaps different organisations taking conflicting and unhelpful approaches.
There are very few cases where this will apply at present but in the future this should be a helpful way to clinical negligence in primary care which benefits both claimants and defendants. That can only be a positive step.
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