On 1 April, a state-backed indemnity scheme for general practitioners (GPs) will take effect.

The scheme will mean that GPs working in the National Health Service (NHS) in England will have cover for future clinical negligence liabilities.

The scheme will not include historic liability, and the scheme does not cover a GP who has been clinically negligent in non-NHS work.  

Linda Millband, lead lawyer for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “We welcome the arrival of this new scheme in principle.

“If this scheme leads to fairer treatment of those injured by negligent GPs and means they have less of a battle with insurers, who always seek to defend these sorts of claims, even when they seem blindingly obvious, then this has to be welcomed.

“However, there are significant aspects of this scheme that remain unclear. The news that the new scheme does not cover historic liability will be a huge disappointment to current clients with an ongoing claim against a GP.

"The bottom line for us and our clients, is that where a medical professional has been negligent, someone needs to accept liability and pick up the bill. Seeing our clients being dealt with differently depending upon where they are treated makes no sense in a modern health service."

Linda Millband
Lead lawyer for clinical negligence

“The fact that the new scheme will not cover potential negligence of GPs where they have been working outside the NHS only goes to highlight the concerns we have expressed as part of our Patients before Profits campaign.  Private providers are not being held to the same standard as those within the NHS. To those for whom we act, it is incredibly difficult to explain why a GP who has cover for negligence in their NHS practice would not have the same cover for negligence arising from work in the private sector. As we have seen in the case of Ian Paterson, the private health sector offered plenty of opportunity for negligence and rogue behaviour, and until there is systemic reform that will remain the case, whether the individual is a consultant or a GP.

“The bottom line for us and our clients, is that where a medical professional has been negligent, someone needs to accept liability and pick up the bill. Seeing our clients being dealt with differently depending upon where they are treated makes no sense in a modern health service.”