023 8051 3286 / 0800 028 5633

The announcement from Chair of the GPC, Dr Chaand Nagpaul around sickness cover reimbursement for GPs has raised many issues regarding locum insurance cover.

The law of unintended consequences springs to mind when reviewing the changes to the GP contract, and we know it is early days.

It's great that NHS England is providing additional financial support to our hard-pressed GPs with an additional £238m going into the GP contract in 2017/18.

With £1734.18 pw being paid to practices for up to 6 months after 2 weeks' sickness absence, most doctors working less than about 7 sessions a week could find their locum costs being met – unless you're in an area of England where locum costs are particularly high.

Although we are still waiting for detail it is clear that the sometimes considerable sums that prudent practices were spending on locum insurance will fall, as practices reevaluate their need for insurance.

However, I urge GPs to consider their circumstances carefully. This doesn't mean that the need for locum insurance falls to zero and practices which cancel their locum insurance face a number of risks:

  1. In areas where locums are very costly – and I've heard of locums charging £1000 per day in some places – the sickness absence reimbursement of up to £1734.18 per week isn't going to cover the entire cost of a GP's absence.
  2. Reimbursement halves after 6 months' sickness absence. £867 doesn't make a big dent in locum costs to cover for a full-time GP.
  3. Reimbursement covers sickness absence of doctors only. The new proposals provide no cover for staff.
  4. Reimbursement covers doctors’ sickness absence only. It doesn't cover jury service, suspension from practice, revalidation leave, or compassionate leave. It doesn't meet funeral costs after accidental death. It doesn't meet private physiotherapy costs and a whole host of other things which typically fall within today's locum insurance policies.

On this latter point, our underwriters paid more claims for jury service in 2016 than I have ever known in 13 years running locum insurance businesses. Over 70% of our clients in 2016 chose to buy a policy which included these additional benefits.

So ditching your locum insurance and putting yourself in the hands of NHS England won't necessarily be the panacea you hoped it would be.

Unless you have insurance in place you will still be putting your hand in your pocket to meet locum costs.

I am confident that underwriters will rise to the challenge and will offer insurance to plug the gaps which NHS England's well-meaning intervention has caused. And, hopefully, should the NHS England funding be withdrawn once its cost to the public purse is deemed unacceptable, the skilled and proficient specialist providers will not have left the market.

Lynda Cox, Principal
Practice Cover

The opinions presented in this statement are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice. Practice Cover is a trading name of Practice Cover Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Locum insurance can be valuable for a practice and its GPs, but we know that there is a whole range of daily issues that surround a practice – and not least is recruitment and the need to find locums. 

Recently we set up some locum insurance for a hard-working GP and, as we like to do, at the end of the conversation I asked him if there was anything else I could help him with. 

He asked me – in his own words – to ‘knit’ him a couple of GPs. I wish I could.

The GP recruitment dilemma

He had tried everything to recruit GPs to his practice and nothing was working. This meant that he and his colleagues were not only working flat out to cover the vacancies, but also drawing on increasingly expensive locums to cover some of the shortfall.

As all of you working in General Practice know, this is a situation being replicated throughout the UK. The upshot is that, as a resource that’s in demand, locums can virtually name their price.

The burden of illness in the workplace

Practices are therefore on the back foot when they need to bring in a locum and they have little or no negotiating power. If they need someone, they need him or her now, and the cost has to be a secondary consideration.

However, in reality cost can’t simply be set aside as a ‘secondary issue’. GPs have to balance the books, and funds for a locum may not be unavailable. Gaps which locums could fill are often plugged by already overworked partners.

GPs are not superhuman. Like the common manthey can suffer the ‘normal’ range of illnesses that we all do. And when GPs unexpectedly get diagnosed with an illness where they cannot work, picture the situation: an already stretched practice is hit with one or two key staff absences through sickness and the workload becomes untenable for the remaining partners.

Returning power to the practice

So where does Practice Cover fit in this?

We specialise in locum insurance for GPs and their practices. This insures the partners – and anyone else at the practice - in case they are ill and can’t work.

When it comes to vacancies at your practice, our insurance can’t meet the cost of a locum. However, it can provide cover for doctors, nurses and staff members who fall ill and can’t work – or potentially when there are absences for other reasons, such as an accident, maternity/paternity or even jury service.
Our locum insurance pays an agreed sum to the practice (after expiry of the practice’s selected deferment period) for up to 52 weeks (or until the person returns to work, if sooner).

We can’t knit GPs, or nurses, but we can give you the money to go out and buy them. It’s a cash sum that the practice could choose to spend on a locum... but in fact, it comes with no restriction on what you do with it. So the practice could just as easily spend the cash on recruitment fees, overtime for staff or any other means that would relieve the practice’s burden after unexpected illness or accident strikes.

To help you make sense of locum insurance, call us on 023 8051 3286.

The views presented are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice.
Practice Cover is a trading name of Practice Cover Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority

If you’re considering locum insurance – and all its myriad options – you will eventually come across continuity of cover.  It’s an option that we offer.

Whether to buy a policy with ‘continuity of cover’ is arguably the most fundamental decision you need to make regarding your locum insurance. So let’s explore exactly what it is.

What happens if you claim – and you’ve bought continuity of cover?

When you opt for continuity of cover on your locum insurance policy with us, we will tell you up-front what you will and what you won’t be insured for.  If you go on to claim for something you’re insured for – say a bad back -  our underwriters will pay out for repeated claims. In other words, you will be covered every time your back problem returns (subject to the policy’s deferment period). Importantly, the underwriters won’t alter the underwriting terms of the policy at renewal in an attempt to restrict future claims.  The only time you’ll be re-underwritten is if you decide you want to change your policy.

What happens if you claim – and didn’t buy continuity of cover?

If you opt for a policy which does not provide continuity of cover, you and your back complaint will be reassessed by our underwriters at your policy’s first renewal date after the first claim is paid. In most cases a restriction will be placed on the policy stating that the underwriter will not pay any further claims for back-related absence.

The impact on the sums you and your practice would be able to claim from the policy as a result of your bad back would be significant.

Why do we give you a choice?

Some locum insurance providers don’t give you a choice – because continuity of cover does not feature in their policies. This often comes down to how much they want to charge – and how much you want to pay. Policies with continuity of cover built into them are more expensive than those without, because of the guarantees that the underwriters are giving.

So is the additional cost of continuity of cover worth it? Our experience here at Practice Cover is mixed. Many come to us because they think continuity of cover is vital. Others come to us for the range of cover, and take the opposite view over continuity of cover. 

What’s right for you?

Do you worry about whether a claim this year will lead to your claim in a later year being declined? If so, you might opt for continuity of cover. You might take the view that, although it costs more, saving money on your premium is a false economy.

Alternatively, you might think that someone who is regularly off ill is likely to take ill-health early retirement. If that’s the case, as a practice you may begrudge paying for cover you wouldn’t need because the person would simply leave the practice after suffering recurrent bouts of ill-health. 

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. We can help you with your research, walk you through the jargon and put the locum insurance that you need in place. Call us on 023 8051 3286

You will speak to a person, not a machine and, as we have no sales force, you won’t be pushed into buying anything by someone who’s paid to sell.

The opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice.

 

A rather distressing story reached me earlier this week, about a GP who is a member of her practice’s group locum insurance policy. 

They had bought locum insurance with 'continuation of cover' on the – not unrealistic – assumption that, regardless of changes in doctors' health, the locum insurance company would not withdraw or restrict the doctors' cover in future.

Last week one of the GPs was diagnosed with cancer, shortly before the practice's locum insurance policy reached its renewal date.

She will need some time off work and, at this stage, there is nothing to suggest that the claim won’t be paid.

However, the practice has been told that the locum insurance company has new underwriters and these new underwriters won't cover this GP at all, when she returns to work.  As far as the practice was concerned, not only would she be covered, this would include any recurrences in future years of her cancer.

To hear that this is not the case and, to add insult to injury, other non-related absences won't be covered either, has left them high and dry.

The policy was cheap but, as we have seen before and we will no doubt see again, cheap is a good choice only if you never get sick.

For 'continuation of cover' that has never been withdrawn, restricted or compromised in any way, talk to us at Practice Cover.

Call 023 8051 3286

The opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice. Practice Cover is a trading name of Practice Cover Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

E&OE – Information current as at date of issue.

As a company we're fortunate to have had countless wonderful reviews from our clients and we all know that nowadays reviews carry a lot of weight. I know, myself, when I want to buy something I take a few minutes to see what others think of the choice I've made.  If I read that a restaurant gives poor service or the food is below par I won't go.

At Practice Cover what do we do with all the wonderful locum insurance reviews we get?  We're rather reserved, non-pushy people. Although we put them on our website and we tweet them, we always assume the reviewer won't want his or her name plastered all over the Internet. We anonymise the reviews and, of course, without a name on them, the review has less value. Talk about selling ourselves short!

Now and again, when we're feeling brave, we ask the reviewer whether he or she would be happy for his name to appear. Even though people rarely say no, we don't make a habit of asking. Typical British reserve!

So last week, when we got a great review from a practice manager, we steeled ourselves and asked the question.

And here is what Mr Julian Smith of Harbourside Health Centre in Swansea said about us:

 "Great service, as always. Nothing too much trouble, even when required change to policy terms and conditions at short notice. Thank you."

Now we need to stop hiding our light under a bushel. It's good to get those names out there.

The opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice.

When you bought your locum insurance maybe what appealed to you was the option of 'continuity of cover'.

It's a safety net that many doctors want. It means the underwriters can’t withdraw or restrictyour cover if you make a claim, or if - as happens with a lot of us - your health gets worse as you grow older.

Unfortunately, we understand that a lot of doctors will hear this year that the continuation of cover promised by their provider isn’t going to deliver as promised. If you’re one of these doctors and have recently received a letter from your provider you could be forgiven for getting hot under the collar when they tell you they are scouting around for a new underwriter... and that (if they find one) your health will need to be underwritten from scratch. The fact is that even though YOU paid for the cover and YOU fulfilled all the policy conditions THEY'VE pulled the plug.

What will this mean for you?

It means you’re going back to square one. You will be re-underwritten and, if you’re lucky, you will be offered cover by the new underwriters on whatever basis they see fit. Whether that will include a version of continuation of cover remains to be seen.

If you stay with them, would you trust them not to pull the plug again? Are they a repeat offender? Is it the first time the provider has pulled cover or is it getting to be a habit?

We know it's difficult to assess who is going to be the right, long-term provider for you, but if you’re one of the doctors who’s been affected by this - or if you’re new to locum insurance and you’re looking for a provider you can trust - it’s time to look at Practice Cover.

Practice Cover offers more choice than any other provider:

  • You can choose either annually renewable cover or continuity of cover
  • No premium increases in over 6 years (even for clients who have claimed)
  • No claims discount if you don’t need to claim
  • We’ve never had to withdraw or restrict our clients' cover - ever.

To chat through your needs, or if you want a quotation, call us on 023 8051 3286.

We have happy clients and we aim to keep it that way. Become one of our happy clients.

The opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice.

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