I’m sure I’m not the only GP pharmacist delighted with the introduction of the new state-backed indemnity scheme for general practice. Over the past four years, the cost of my indemnity has increased massively, and certainly not in proportion to my income. The development of this scheme will hopefully bring with it a much-needed – and significant – reduction in costs. But let’s be clear: I am not getting free indemnity.
The advice I have read is that the new scheme will only support clinical negligence claims for work undertaken as part of the GP contract, whereas my current policy covers me for all sorts of additional factors, including investigations from the General Pharmaceutical Council, criminal allegations and working in other sectors.
I will still need indemnity, and those costs, albeit lower, will have to be met by me. Where I work – and I’m sure this is the case with many surgeries – the GPs’ membership of defence organisations that have historically indemnified them is met by the practice. However I, like many pharmacists in all sectors, am unfortunately expected to pay my own.
So, I was intrigued to read that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for this state-backed scheme to be extended to community pharmacy, with the implication that community pharmacists will get free indemnity. I don’t think this is either appropriate or practical.
For a start, it would not be straightforward to extend the current GP policy to community pharmacists. As far as I can see, the state-backed scheme has been introduced primarily to address the massive premiums that doctors have been paying for years. It is also embedded, both functionally and financially, in the new GP contract. It cannot simply be extended to cover pharmacists working in the community sector.
It is conceivable that, as primary care networks develop, there will be greater opportunity for community pharmacists to deliver more services. Then, in the same way that general practice indemnity has been integral to the GP contract negotiations, discussions about the impact on new services in community pharmacy should include indemnity considerations. In fact, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee could take lessons from the massive increase in GP pharmacist indemnity over the past few years, to ensure the same problem does not arise in community pharmacy.
However, this does not detract from the fact that clinical negligence is only a part of indemnity, and most pharmacists are still left paying for their policies.
I can’t help but feel that this call for extension of cover to community is a misplaced attempt by the RPS to garner popularity from a beleaguered and disenfranchised sector. I would suggest that they take a different and fairer approach by lobbying pharmacist employers from all sectors to consider adequate remuneration of personal indemnity costs for all their pharmacist employees.
The GP Pharmacist is a former community pharmacist working in a general practice