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Friday, December 4, 1998 Published at 14:47 GMT


Compulsory insurance for GPs and dentists

GPs will only get work if they are insured

The government plans to make full professional insurance for doctors and dentists compulsory to ensure patients are able to claim compensation after mistreatment.

The proposals, which need legislation, follow cases where patients have been unable to claim compensation after mistreatment from uninsured clinicians.

There is currently no requirement in law for GPs or dentists to have indemnity insurance.

There have been occasions where patients have had to pursue legal action against their clinicians for redress following treatment.

Recent cases have included that of dentist John Musgrave, whose patient was awarded damages of 23,000 and GP Dr Salim Najada, whose patient was awarded damages of 38,000 after he was found guilty of manslaughter.

Even after the award of damages in such cases, patients have found that the clinicians involved have been unable to pay.

Wholly unacceptable

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Health Minister Alan Milburn said: "I recognise that only a very small number of dental and medical practitioners do not have an insurance policy to cover them in the event of something going wrong.

"But, it is wholly unacceptable that patients are left with no recourse to compensation should a mistake happen. It is important that all patients know that their doctor or dentist is properly insured if things go wrong."

The amendment will give the Secretary of State powers to specify that GPs and dentists either prove they have insurance cover before being admitted to a Health Authority list or make such cover a requirement in the Terms of Service.

There will also be powers to remove a doctor or dentist from the HA list if they are not covered by insurance.

Dr Albert Day, head of professional services at the Medical Protection Society, which offers insurance to GPs and other doctors, welcomed the government move.

He fewer than five per cent of GPs were not insured, and there were few examples of patients being unable to claim compensation.

But he added: "This is good news for patients and for the profession. It gives all doctors the security of knowing that their colleagues haven't been foolish enough to go without indemnity cover."

Under law, GPs working in a partnership may all be responsible for meeting the cost of a compensation claim if one of their colleagues is found not to have insurance cover.

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