NHS England has revealed plans to extend the 2016 Winter Indemnity Scheme to April 2017, to allow those working extra shifts to do so without burden of indemnity costs.
The Winter Indemnity Scheme was set up by NHS England in 2016 as part of the General Practice Forward View, with an aim to help GPs pay for the rising indemnity payments while delivering out-of-hours (OOH) care outside of general practice.
It allowed GPs to avoid paying large sums for indemnity against clinical negligence, after many GPs had warned that buying indemnity for OOH care was unsustainable and was discouraging doctors from taking on extra shifts.
The scheme will now be extended to April 2017 in order to allow GPs to work extra shifts over the Easter Bank Holiday without having to face additional indemnity costs.
The scheme has made an initial £30 million available in 2016/17 to cover indemnity costs, while the Department of Health and NHS England work on plans to reform the indemnity system. Shares of another £30 million will follow for 2017/18.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), praised the scheme, saying: ‘The rising cost of indemnity is a huge concern for GPs right across the UK, so we’re pleased that this scheme has been extended to provide extra support for our colleagues who are most affected.
‘The College has been working closely with NHS England to help GPs with indemnity costs and we will continue to campaign for long-lasting solutions to deal with this ongoing issue.’
Dr Arvind Madan, GP and Director of Primary Care for NHS England, said: ‘The General Practice Forward View committed to help address the indemnity problem and today’s announcement is the latest step in the work NHS England has been doing with the Department of Health and the medical defence organizations.
‘We know the rising costs of indemnity are proving a real obstacle for GPs and this funding is an example of our determination to help tackle the issue.’
Speaking in a House of Commons debate on 15 March, Health Minister David Mowat pledged that financial support for GPs in relation to indemnity costs would ‘go on into the future’.
He added: ‘In the GP Forward View we have said that GPs will not bear the costs of increased indemnity, the government will, and that is a commitment we are holding to. The increases that were incurred last year will be paid through the GP contract at a cost of £33 million this year.’