One third of GPs responding to MDU survey say they will quit NHS over indemnity costs

A third (32%) of 846 GPs responding to a survey on professional indemnity say they are considering leaving the profession or retiring because they cannot afford the increased cost, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) revealed today.

And if indemnity prices rise further, which is likely because clinical negligence claims inflation is rising at 10% per year, the number of GPs thinking of quitting rises to 41%, the survey found.

The MDU, the UK's leading medical defence organisation, carried out the survey to gauge GPs' opinion about the rising cost of professional indemnity and its impact on primary care. Further results from the survey include:

  • 38% of GPs who responded had given up certain work, such as out-of-hours sessions, or reduced the amount they work because of the cost of indemnity
  • 45% had reduced other outgoings 
  • Just 5% say they haven’t been affected by the increased cost of indemnity

GPs also voiced their fears about the cost of indemnity. Comments included:

"The government must support general practice or the NHS will fail"

"The public need to know that the cost of indemnity will take money away from provision of care."

"I just despair. Does anyone really care for our patients and the NHS?"

"The costs are already crippling, not only will current GPs struggle to afford any increase but it is a negative incentive to recruiting young doctors into general practice, at a time we are already struggling with recruitment."

On behalf of its GP members the MDU is calling on the Government to step in with a support package to Save General Practice from the devastating impact of increased clinical negligence payments, exacerbated by the last Government’s decision to lower the discount rate* by a shocking 3.25%. 

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU chief executive, said:

"GPs must pay for their own indemnity, unlike hospital doctors who are indemnified by their NHS employer for clinical negligence claims. Primary care services are struggling to cope with an overwhelming workload, a shortage of GPs and limited funding. The spiralling cost of indemnity is the final straw for some GPs. Our survey reveals that many of them, and not just of retiring age, are considering quitting the profession. Even newly-qualified doctors say they are thinking of a career change. If a third of the GP workforce leaves the profession it will be really devastating for patients and for the NHS.

"The new Government must act quickly by providing financial support to GPs that protects them from a massive rise in indemnity costs. If GPs aren’t supported, many won’t be able to pay and there will be a crisis in general practice which would leave patients at risk. Before the election, the Government pledged that the Department of Health would 'work closely with GPs and the medical defence organisations to ensure appropriate funding is available' to meet GPs’ additional indemnity costs. This pledge must now be honoured."

Further comments from GPs can be seen at

* The previous Lord Chancellor announced in February 2017 that the discount rate, which is the mechanism courts use to calculate the size of lump sum compensation payable to claimants, would decrease from 2.5% to -0.75%.

This guidance was correct at publication 25/06/2017. 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.

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