Welsh Government response to GP indemnity crisis overdue – but welcome

The Welsh Government has announced a state-backed GP indemnity deal, bringing Wales into alignment with proposed changes for England announced last year by the UK Conservative Government.

The Welsh Government’s announcement comes following pressure from within the profession, including from former MP and North Wales GP – Dr James Davies.

There have been growing concerns that soaring indemnity costs are driving GPs out of the profession, and the UK Government’s proposals are designed to deliver a long-term solution to the spiralling costs that have become a key factor in the escalating GP crisis, pushing thousands of GPs to reduce the sessions they work or quit the profession altogether.

Worryingly for Welsh GPs, the lack of clarity over a similar deal for Wales has meant that Welsh GPs have been unable to access ‘transitional’ schemes available to colleagues across the border in England.

The BMA has warned that indemnity costs for GPs rose 50% between 2010 and 2016. GPs now pay on average around £8,000 per year for indemnity - suggesting the total bill for over 40,000 GPs comes to more than £300m annually. 

Commenting on the statement, Welsh Conservative leader – Andrew RT Davies – said:

“This announcement is welcome, but way overdue, and follows months of pressure from GPs and groups like the BMA.

“Soaring indemnity costs have placed an unacceptable financial burden on GPs, and the failure to make progress here in Wales has made an already serious recruitment and retention crisis even worse.

“With the details of the scheme yet to be revealed, it remains unclear whether this scheme will provide Welsh GPs with the support they need to work flexibly – or indeed whether it matches the support being offered across the border in England.

“That said, it is a positive development for Welsh GPs and with overall numbers at their lowest in Wales since 2013, it is vital that the Welsh Government does all it can to support the profession.”

Former MP and North Wales GP, James Davies, said:

“The cost of indemnity cover is a huge issue for GPs, and it is good to see the Welsh Government responding to the concerns of the profession at last.

“With the UK Government having committed some time ago to state-backed indemnity for GPs working in England, those in Wales were in danger of being left behind financially – and I welcome the fact that the Health Secretary is finally listening to our concerns.  

“While the financial burden of indemnity cover and a threatened disparity in the costs levied between Wales and England now looks set to be addressed, this is just one of a number of factors prompting a serious crisis in GP recruitment and retention.

“There is much that still needs to be done to make Wales a more attractive place to practice.  

“In the short term at least, Welsh GPs should now be entitled to the same indemnity packages as their colleagues in England – but a number of questions remain about the details of the Welsh Government’s overall scheme.”