A guide to business protection for GPs

The types of protection you might need for your GP practice

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Running a GP practice can be as rewarding as it is demanding. But being a GP partner comes with a lot of responsibility and some potential risks that you may not be prepared for.

Whether it’s the loss of a key employee or claims of medical malpractice, it’s important to cover yourself against unexpected circumstances that can cause major disruption to the running of your business.

From protecting your practice to protecting your partnership, learn more about the types of cover you might need in this guide.

Protecting yourself against the loss of key staff

Hiring doctors and key staff can be extremely expensive, and while NHS reimbursement will pay part of the bill, it may not be enough to cover the full cost.

If you're a GP partner, it is your responsibility to cover your absence if you’re off work due to illness or injury. The level of cover you require will be informed by your partnership agreement.

Let’s say that your agreement states you will need to pay the cost of a locum cover if you’re off work for more than four weeks. If you're not ready to return to work following these four weeks, the cost of paying for a locum may be more than the amount you receive from the NHS - meaning a big hit to your pockets.

This is where Wesleyan’s Practice Protector Plus can help. Designed to cover the cost of hiring a replacement GP in your absence, this type of insurance also protects you against the loss of other key employees working in your practice.

Put simply, a key member of staff is anyone who is essential to the day-to-day running of your business. This could be a salaried GP with a specialist skillset or a practice manager responsible for handling important contracts.

Your practice might cover key staff who are off work on a short-term basis, but there are a number of other circumstances that you may not have given much thought to.

For example:

  • What would happen if a key member of your staff became critically ill, or died?
  • How easy would it be to replace them?
  • Would your income be affected as a result of their absence?

Tailored to the needs of your surgery, Practice Protector Plus covers the cost of replacing both internal and external key staff, enabling you to maintain your practice profits should the worst happen.

Protecting your partnership

While it isn’t nice to think about, the loss of a practice partner through critical illness or death would have a huge impact on your business.

If your partnership owns the building you work in, and one of your partners passes away, it’s likely that their share of the practice will be left to their spouse or family members.

This is a normal course of action when following a will, but it’s unlikely that their loved ones will have any experience of running a GP practice. They’re more likely to want to withdraw their share of the value from the practice, but without the right level of cover in place, you and your remaining partners may struggle to find the funds needed to buy them out.

This is where partnership protection insurance can help. Paid as a lump-sum benefit, this type of cover will allow you to buy your partner’s share of the practice if they become critically ill or pass away. It will also give you the means to provide their family with the appropriate level of compensation.

When arranging partnership protection, there are two options to consider: own life cover and life of another cover.

  • Own life cover is best suited to practices with more than two partners. Each partner takes out their own policy and pays their own premiums – the benefits of which are written in trust for the other partners. The lump sum payout can then be used to buy out the deceased partners’ share of the business.
  • Life of another cover is suitable for practices with only two partners. Each partner takes out a life of another policy on the other partner. This means that the surviving partner will have the financial means to purchase the remaining share of the business.

It’s also important to remember that outside the value of the property, an NHS-based GP practice has no inherent or ‘goodwill’ value. This is because the ability to make money is through the NHS contract, and isn’t something that can be sold on. So, unlike most other businesses, you don't need to worry about protecting this value.

If you would like further guidance on protecting your partnership, speak to a Specialist Financial Adviser from Wesleyan Financial Services today.

Protecting your practice

As a busy GP, you may not have much time to spend thinking about the risks your practice faces on a day-to-day basis. But things can go wrong at any time, which is why it pays to have the right level of protection in place.

GP surgery insurance can provide cover against a number of worst-case scenarios, such as:

  • Damage to refrigerated drugs and vaccines
  • Damage to your property and contents within it
  • Equipment breakdown (for example, medical equipment, lifts and escalators)
  • Unexpected spillages and breakages
  • Contractual disputes or tax investigations
  • Loss of income

When it comes to finding insurance for your practice, it’s important to choose a provider that can help you assess whether you have the right level of cover in place for your premises. In other words, somebody to advise if you’re over or under-insured.

Once your cover is in place, it’s also wise to make sure you update your policy whenever you make changes to your practice. For example, refurbishing your waiting room or increasing your medication stock.

It might be tempting to wait until you renew your policy to review your contents, but if you need to make a claim before then, any building changes or new purchases may not be covered.

To learn more about the process of getting or updating cover for your GP practice, read our guide to surgery insurance.

Protecting confidential data

In this digital age, any business that holds electronic data is at risk of data breaches and cyber-attacks. As a practice responsible for managing confidential patient records, there can be a lot at stake if you do suffer a breach.

This where cyber insurance can help. Should the worst happen, this type of cover can help with:

  • Support when a breach occurs
  • Costs following a cyber incident
  • Controlling reputational damage
  • Loss or damage to data or software
  • Cover for legal advice

It’s also worth noting that in October 2023, NHS England announced that GP surgeries are required to carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) as part of a programme designed to provide patients with online access to their health records.

The aim of this assessment is to identify and mitigate any data protection risks that might arise as part of the implementation of the programme. A cyber insurance policy could also provide the cover you need to protect yourself against any risks that arise as part of this process.

Protecting your reputation

Providing care for your patients is rewarding, but it isn't without risk. As a medical professional, there may come a time in your career where you face claims of negligence or malpractice. As such, you're legally required to have appropriate malpractice (or indemnity) cover in place.

While the NHS Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practitioners (CNSGP) provides some cover for claims of negligence, medical malpractice insurance is still important for GPs for a number of reasons:

  • Gaps in cover - While the CNSGP provides cover for clinical negligence within primary medical services, it may not cover claims for any work that sits outside of this context - for example, any privately funded healthcare or reports carried out for other departmental bodies.
  • Additional protection - Medical malpractice insurance can provide additional cover for areas not covered by the CNSGP, including personal liability, legal expenses and other non-clinical risks.
  • Tailored policies - This type of insurance can also be tailored to the specific needs of healthcare practitioners, offering more flexibility in cover than the CNSGP.
  • Legal representation - Medical malpractice insurance often covers the cost of legal representation, helping to ensure that GPs have the resources needed to defend themselves in the event of a claim.

The level of malpractice cover you need will depend on both your individual circumstances and the needs of your practice.

This is why it's recommended that you speak to a specialist insurance broker who can assess your requirements and make sure you have the appropriate protection in place for both clinical and non-clinical liabilities.

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