Alex Chalk MP: New indemnity scheme welcome news for GPs, but we must still tackle rising costs

The proposed state-backed indemnity scheme is welcome news for GPs in England, but the underlying issue of rising clinical negligence costs still needs to be tackled, Alex Chalk MP told peers and health leaders at a parliamentary event

Speaking at the Medical Protection Society (MPS) event on rising clinical negligence costs, and the resulting impact on the NHS and indemnity for healthcare professionals, Alex Chalk said those who suffer as a result of clinical negligence must be properly compensated but affordability should also be considered.  He urged the Government to continue to explore legal reform to tackle the problem.

The NHS spent £1.7bn on clinical negligence claims during 2016/17, and since 2010/11 spend has almost doubled – a 98% increase –equating to an average increase of 12% every year. If spend continues to increase at the same rate, the NHS could be paying out £3bn a year by 2021/22.

In June this year MPS launched a campaign setting out a package of legal reforms that could control spiralling costs and strike a balance between compensation that is reasonable and affordable. The reforms included the introduction of a limit on future care costs based on the realities of providing home based care, and fixed recoverable costs to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees. MPS is also calling for swift reform on how the discount rate is set to avoid further sudden shocks to the cost of compensation.

Alex Chalk MP, a member of the Justice Select Committee, said, “I welcome the government’s announcement on a state-backed indemnity scheme – I have been active in raising the issue of rising indemnity costs in Parliament and I am pleased to see a solution for GP’s in England.

“We still however need to tackle the underlying issue of rising clinical negligence costs. Those who suffer as a result of clinical negligence must be properly compensated and we need to safeguard access to justice, but we must also consider what society and the NHS can afford. I agree with MPS that legal reform to strike this important balance should be considered and I urge the government to continue working with MPS to explore this further.”

Simon Kayll, chief executive at MPS, who also spoke at the event, said, “There must be reasonable compensation for those harmed due to clinical negligence, but this must be balanced against society’s ability to pay. If the current trend continues, the balance will tip too far.

“The proposed state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs in England – the government’s response to the discount rate change which increased the cost of compensation at a time when costs were already at risk of becoming unsustainable – is a welcome development for many GPs and we are working with government to ensure the ‘small print’ is fair and meets their needs.

“But this new scheme will not solve the underlying issue of rising clinical negligence costs. The cost of claims will always need to be paid for, and will continue to increase unless the root of the issue is tackled, through legal reform.

“We are pleased Alex Chalk has been raising this important issue in Parliament, both as an MP speaking out about the impact on general practice, and as a member of the Justice Select Committee which has been considering how the discount rate can be reformed.”

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