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Health minister ‘looking into’ pharmacists’ indemnity insurance issues

Lord O'Shaughnessy: Ministers reviewing primary care insurance (Credit: Chris McAndrew/CC BY 3.0)
Lord O'Shaughnessy: Ministers reviewing primary care insurance (Credit: Chris McAndrew/CC BY 3.0)

A health minister has said he will “look into” a claim that some community pharmacists are struggling to get indemnity insurance when working with GPs.

Lord O’Shaughnessy was responding to a question from Baroness Browning in the House of Lords last month (April 18), who asked him to “look at…insurance cover for pharmacists” after reports that some are struggling to secure indemnity insurance.

During the debate, Baroness Browning claimed: “While GPs have been very keen for pharmacists to give advice, for example, to asthma sufferers – and to provide the equipment that asthma sufferers need to carry with them – [pharmacists] have run into difficulties in getting insurance cover to provide that level of advice.”

In response, Lord O’Shaughnessy said ministers “are reviewing insurance across primary care…and I shall look into this specific issue”.

PDA: “Bemused and confused” at question

Responding to the House of Lords exchange, Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) chairman Mark Koziol told C+D that he had “never” come across pharmacists struggling to get insurance for providing asthma services.

The PDA provides indemnity insurance for its 27,000 members, and “as far as I'm aware, in terms of us providing protection, we've never had an issue with [asthma cover]”, he told C+D last week (May 3).

“As far as I am aware, there isn’t a problem with indemnity in pharmacy”, Mr Koziol said, and so “we are bemused and confused at where this question has come from”.

He warned that “inevitably the [insurance] premiums are going to go up” as the role becomes “more risky and clinically orientated”.

NPA: “Some higher premiums” for GP pharmacists

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) head of claims Glyn Walduck told C+D that “some individual pharmacists may have encountered higher premium levels for professional indemnity cover where they are undertaking more advanced clinical activities, when working in GP practices”.

These costs “accurately reflect the increased exposure to liabilities that come with such roles”, he added.

The NPA said it provides indemnity insurance for staff in the “vast majority” of the 7,000 independent pharmacies in the UK, as well as some pharmacists who take out their own insurance.

“Cover will be available, as it is now, but the closer the pharmacists’ role gets to the primary interface of the GP, then premiums will move towards the considerably higher levels that GPs have to pay for their indemnity cover,” Mr Walduck stressed.

“Problems” with GP pharmacist scheme

The PDA’s Mr Koziol claimed there had been a “big problem” when NHS England first introduced its scheme to place pharmacists in GP surgeries, as insurers “wouldn’t allow pharmacists that were newly qualified” to take out insurance.

At the time, indemnity schemes had not been designed to cover GP pharmacists, he claimed, and so insurance companies had suspended some of their cover options.

With the introduction of the GP pharmacist role, premiums saw a “significant uplift”, from £150, to approximately £500 per year. But this is “nowhere near as much” as the £8,000-£9,000 that doctors pay, Mr Koziol claimed.

However, Mr Koziol said “we now have a scheme that covers all pharmacists to work in GP practices”.

Has the amount you pay for insurance increased?

Colin Rodden, Hospital pharmacist

The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists has been campaigning for the Departments of Health in each of the countries to either fund, or come to an agreement with GPs to have GP pharmacists included in the GP practice’s indemnity arrangements.

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