It is probably little known to most that General Practitioners (GPs) do not have insurance to treat you.
Instead, GPs are required to be a member of a “Defence Union”, which provides discretionary indemnity arrangements in the case of a negligence claim. However, as this arrangement is discretionary, and either the GP or the Defence Union can avoid their indemnity requirements, it means that if you are injured by a General Practitioner’s negligence, they might not have the cover in place to meet your claim for damages.
The Government has recently carried out a consultation and plans to replace existing discretionary indemnity arrangements with regulated cover, backed by the Government and similar to the arrangements with NHS doctors and hospitals. The case made by the Government to switching to a regulated model is that under the current discretionary system – and unlike commercial insurance companies – there is no contractual obligation to meet the cost of any claim against the professionals they cover and no legal obligation to ensure they have reserves to cover the cost of claims.
The Government plans to ensure that all healthcare professionals in the UK are covered by an appropriate indemnity scheme so that all clinical negligence cases are covered.
Not surprisingly, GPs and the Defence Unions are opposed to the proposals, fearing higher insurance premiums and that it will take away a significant amount of funding from the Defence Unions.
The present discretionary indemnity arrangements also extend to hospital doctors carrying out private consultations and treatment. It is clear from the Ian Paterson (Breast Surgeon) experience that under the present scheme Defence Unions will try to avoid their financial responsibility if they can.
Unfortunately, I have experienced over the years a number of cases where both GPs and private doctors have not had the appropriate indemnity cover for the treatment they are providing or that the Defence Unions have refused to indemnify the doctors under the discretionary scheme, leaving injured people without any real redress.
Head of Medical Negligence
About the Author
Tom is a partner of BTTJ and Head of the Medical Negligence department. He is a member of both the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel and the Action against Medical Accident panel and has been recognised by the Legal 500.