In February 2017, the UK Government made a substantial change to the way in which personal injury compensation payments are calculated. The decision to lower the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) saw the rate at which payments are calculated fall from 2.5% to minus 0.75%, resulting in a significant increase to the cost of settling large clinical negligence claims, especially for GPs.
What's happened since then?
There have been a number of developments relating to clinical negligence indemnity during the last year. The first was an announcement in September 2017 from the UK Government that they planned to reform how the discount rate is set for England and Wales in future, followed by a second announcement in October that they planned to develop a state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs in England.
The UK Government swiftly followed up the state-backed indemnity announcement with an addendum (found at the bottom of page 3 in the PDF) to their original statement, where they made it absolutely clear that they do not currently plan to include any run-off cover as part of the state-backed scheme. This means GPs with claims-paid or claims-made indemnity arrangements, such as the type offered by the MDU, may be required to purchase separate cover themselves at the point they move to a state-backed scheme.
This year, the UK Government has consulted on its plans for reforming how the discount rate is set in England and Wales. It proposes that the rate be set at a lower level and also be reviewed more often, so as to avoid sudden changes like the one that was announced last year. Emma Hallinan, Director of Claims Policy and Legal at MPS, appeared before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee to set out our support for these reforms.
Most recently, the Welsh Government has announced its decision to develop a state-backed indemnity scheme that will provide protection for all contracted GPs and other healthcare professionals working in general practice in Wales.
What will the state-backed scheme mean for me?
When introduced, the English and Welsh state-backed indemnity schemes will provide indemnity against clinical negligence claims arising from NHS contracted work, in a similar arrangement to the NHS indemnity scheme that already exists for NHS hospital doctors. There are no plans for the new schemes to include indemnity for non-contracted NHS work, or support for complaints, GMC inquiries, inquests and disciplinary proceedings, although we will continue to offer this support to GP members, just as we have for hospital doctors since NHS indemnity was introduced for them in 1990.
Both schemes are planned to come into force from April 2019, although the details are still to be finalised. In the meantime, it is imperative that you maintain your existing membership to ensure that you have appropriate and adequate indemnity in place.
The health departments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet announced whether they will introduce similar arrangements as those proposed for England and Wales. Discussions are ongoing, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and officials in Northern Ireland to help inform their plans for protecting GPs from the rising cost of clinical negligence.
Campaigning for you
We have been absolutely clear that GPs should not have to shoulder any additional financial burden as a result of the UK Government’s decision to amend the PIDR, and have consistently pushed for the interests of GPs to be put first.
We have campaigned over the last year to ensure that the impact of the amended PIDR was fully understood and properly taken into account in governmental discussions, and we remain actively involved in the debate regarding how the rate will be set for the future.
We know you’ll have questions
We know that you will have questions, so we have included some Q&As to help provide you with more information. We have also provided some case studies to illustrate the effect that the PIDR change is having on the cost of clinical negligence claims. Please see below for links to these.
Making a difference
If you are interested in learning more about what we are doing to tackle the wider issue of clinical negligence costs, then please visit our Striking a Balance campaign page.