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Legal claims against GPs increased by 16.4% last year, says MDDUS

25 August 2016

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A medical defence organisation has reported a 16.4% increase in legal claims made against GPs last year.

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) said that the increase showed a “growing trend for increased litigation”.

However, the indemnity provider added that the rise was also because of an 8.2% growth in the organisation’s membership.

As a result, Chris Kenny, MDDUS chief executive, wrote a letter to the minister for NHS Productivity Lord Prior of Brampton, urging the Government to implement measures that will reduce legal costs in clinical negligence cases.

“The absence of effective controls on the amount of costs which can be recovered in negligence cases is a key driver” behind rising indemnity costs for GP members.

A survey by Pulse recently found that GP indemnity fees, an insurance against clinical negligence, increased by 26% in the 12 months prior to November 2015.

Kenny went on to say that “the scope for savings” for both medical defence organisations and the NHS Litigation Authority “are considerable”.

He said: “We all have many examples of where the amount paid in legal costs is significantly greater than the compensation payments made to the patient.

“It is for that reason that the idea of a cap to overcome these perverse incentives of the current system is so attractive. Not only will it ensure far tighter management of costs at the level of the individual case, but it will have the right incentive effects in ensuring that only the strongest cases are selected and prepared in the most cost-effective manner.”

Last month it was reported that the NHS is introducing a £60 million Indemnity Support Scheme to compensate practices for the inflation of insurance costs.

NHS England has said practices would begin receiving this money from April 2017 and it will cover any increases in indemnity fees.

In the same report, NHS England confirmed that they would extend last year’s £2 million winter indemnity scheme for out-of-ours GPs into this winter.