Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, explains how we are adapting to the changes affecting primary care.
How have emerging trends in primary care affected Medical Protection members?
What we’ve seen over the last 12 to 18 months is sustained growth in the number of practices “working at scale”. Because of funding for new care models in England, as well as similar initiatives in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, we’ve seen practices coming together to cope with change and develop innovative new ways of caring for patients. This has led to a rise in the number of federations, super-practices and partnerships and multi-speciality community providers. For example, over the last year we’ve been working with a practice in the Midlands with around 50 GPs and another in the Yorkshire area that has grown to 40 GPs, as well as GP federations with more than 100 GPs. GPs are being challenged to think about how to extend access to primary care and how to reorganise services in the community for the benefit of patients. They are adapting at speed and trying to lead the way, and that has caused us to think differently as an organisation.
How are you addressing these needs?
We’ve had to start rethinking our model of service delivery so that we no longer focus only on individual members, but also look at how we can provide more for organisations and large groups of members. I think this is one of the most significant changes to impact Medical Protection in its 124-year history. For more than ten years we’ve offered Practice Xtra, a group scheme that caters very well for the needs of members working in a GP practice. However, when we’re approached by a super-practice or federation we recognise that we need to treat them on an individual basis – creating a federation product, or “Federation Xtra” is not the right answer. We believe that we need to provide more bespoke solutions for these organisations, which take into account the whole team, often working across multiple sites, as well as the additional risk management and customer service support they need. The idea of protection as well as defence is very important to us, and that starts with preventing potential problems from occurring. We particularly want to work with organisations that have a long-term strategy to develop their services, and who are committed to working in partnership with us, as this allows us to fully integrate our risk management approach.
What are the membership benefits available to organisations working at scale?
Firstly there are the positives we bring to any membership arrangement. This includes the right to request assistance if something goes wrong, and quality advice and risk management support to help doctors with everything, from the biggest to the smallest challenges they face every day. At the same time, we recognise that organisations of a certain size need more support to understand how indemnity arrangements work in increasingly complex structures. Some of the changes we’ve made to our group scheme recently, such as extending membership to pharmacists working in a practice and allowing healthcare assistants to move between different sites, are about being flexible for members who are working in different ways. Ultimately the biggest benefits are based around our brand promise of being ‘more than defence’. Our investment in risk management education is a core competency of Medical Protection that extends to large groups and networks, and it adds up to more peace of mind when our members know they’re doing everything they can to avoid a claim.
Can larger scale membership arrangements help GPs save money on professional protection?
Larger groups of GPs may be able to qualify for a broader commercial arrangement, one which incorporates a discount and a risk management package. This still has to be realistically priced but remain fair to other members, as everyone contributes to the same fund for the same assistance should they ever need to request it. Larger groups also make it possible for us to provide extended risk management services to help members identify and take action against some of the issues which could lead to a claim in the future. And, where groups are large enough, we may also be able to ring-fence their risk and claims experience in order to better tailor a price to their needs, although this is an approach that can take some years to reach maturity.
What is the best way to approach Medical Protection for further information and advice?
We have many skilled service staff within Medical Protection, including our membership helpline, online support team and our account managers in the field. In the first instance, we would encourage any federation, superpractice or other organisation developing a new care model to get in touch with us through one of these means, and speak to us at the earliest opportunity. Depending on the nature of the organisation, we will often try to arrange a visit to establish requirements in more detail.