New rules on personal injury claims
The Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, recently announced a cut to the discount rate applied to personal injury claims from 2.5-0.75 per cent.
The effect will be an increase in the size of compensation payments, leading to significant new costs for the NHS and medical defence organisations (MDOs), such as the MDDUS.
MDOs are not-for-profit financial mutuals, wholly owned by their medical and dental members. As such, the subscription rates they charge have to reflect their best actuarial estimate of the likely liabilities which they face. Yesterday’s decision will lessen the impact of the efforts which MDDUS, working with the Department of Health, NHS England and others, have been making to restrain the cost pressures already in the pipeline because of the higher number of claims and the higher costs already associated with them.
Speaking after the announcement, Chris Kenny, chief executive of MDDUS, said, “Everybody agrees that those who suffer medical accidents should be properly and promptly compensated. The increase in claims awarded show that this is already happening.
“The decision, based on a consultation undertaken in 2013, does not reflect that fact nor anything which has happened in the economy and healthcare in the intervening period – nor what is likely to occur in the coming years as a result of Brexit and other pressures. It takes no account of the interests of the NHS, facing acute financial challenges. It ignores the impact of unavoidably high indemnity fees on morale and recruitment in primary care. Future decisions simply must be more joined up.”
MDDUS believes three things are now essential:
- First, doctors and dentists must be fully protected from the cost of this decision. We welcome government’s commitment to this for GPs in the first instance and will work closely with them to achieve it.
- Second, there must be no delay in producing proposals for the establishment of a better system for setting the rate. These must be radical in content and rapid in implementation, perhaps through the current Prison and Courts Bill.
- Finally, government needs to produce timetabled proposals to address the wider issue of tort reform in parallel with changing the basis for setting the discount rate.
Kenny added: “We look forward to seeing specific action in each of these areas. In the short-term, however, we continue to explore the implications of the decision closely and do not discount any action which gives a reasonable prospect of achieving a better, fairer and more affordable deal for our members.”
The British Dental Association (BDA) has told the Department of Health and NHS England that changes to the discount rate of personal injury claims could seriously undermine retention – and pressed for indemnity support schemes offered to GPs to be extended to GDPs.
The BDA have also raised concerns with the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) on how significant increases in expenses could impact on coming reports.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said, “Rising indemnity costs will worsen the already growing retention issue we have in NHS dentistry with many part-time or older, more experienced dentists deciding that it is not financially worthwhile to continue to practise. GPs can expect to benefit from an indemnity support scheme and we believe GDPs deserve the same treatment.”