Figures released today by the Medical Defence Union in its annual report for 2018, show the introduction of transitional benefits membership with its lower subscription costs, led to 40% fewer GP members retiring during 2018 compared to 2017.
The trend also continued into 2019, with MDU GP retirement figures down by more than 70% in the first half of the year, bucking the national trend of GPs retiring early.
MDU chairman Dr Paul Riordan-Eva commented:
'We introduced transitional benefits membership following the government's proposals for state backed indemnity for primary care. This was against a background of clinical negligence claims inflation which meant many GPs were already working fewer sessions or contemplating retirement. When this was followed by the drastic reduction in the personal injury discount rate, doubling and even trebling the cost of high value claims, indemnity for GPs simply became unaffordable. We thought transitional benefits would allow GPs to continue to practise and it is gratifying to see they have had the desired effect of retaining GPs for the NHS who would otherwise have left.
'It is important so many GP members who wanted to continue working have been able to stay in practice. It will help to reduce the pressure on other GPs and practice staff.
'As well as seeing fewer MDU GP members retire than in recent years, in 2018 we also saw an increase in active members, particularly among GPs and GP specialist trainees.'
The MDU's transitional benefits scheme, which ran between November 2017 and March 2019, offered GPs half price subscriptions at a time when they were struggling to meet the unaffordable costs of indemnity. It was launched when the government announced its proposals to introduce state-backed indemnity for primary care in England, which began for future liabilities in April 2019. Under transitional benefits membership, MDU members retiring at or after the normal retirement age for their NHS pension scheme are not charged for Extended Benefit Rights (also known as run-off cover).
In other highlights from the MDU's annual report, it was revealed that during 2018:
- Over 80% of medical claims were defended successfully and closed without payment of compensation.
- Over 300 medical disciplinary files were opened including the highest ever number of GPs supported with investigations under the Performers List (Regulations).
- There was an increase in demand from members for medico and dento-legal advice with almost 13,500 new case files and 30,000 telephone enquiries on the 24-hour advice line. Over 98% of calls in working hours (between 8am and 6pm) were answered by one of our specially trained doctors or dentists within 20 seconds.
- The MDU's membership department answered over 160,000 telephone calls, responded to over 95,000 letters and emails and dealt with almost 23,000 applications for membership. Eighty percent of phone calls were answered within twenty seconds and 98% of member correspondence was responded to within five working days.
MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins explained:
'With doctors and dentists under unprecedented pressures in their jobs, we know how important it is that members are able to speak to a specially trained medical or dental adviser whenever they need guidance or support.
'We never forget that the MDU exists for our members and our main function is to provide medico and dento-legal services for them. Our aim is to be the best. When our members need us, whether it is because they have a difficult decision to make or face a medico-legal challenge, nothing less will do.'
This guidance was correct at publication 06/08/2019. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.