Professional Indemnity for Healthcare Professionals
Since July 2014 there has been a legal obligation on registered healthcare professionals to have indemnity cover for the work which they undertake. This is intended to ensure that patients can be properly compensated in the event they are harmed by the negligence of a practitioner. The introduction of the legal duty followed the recommendations of the Finlay Scott Review and buttressed the professional obligation to have adequate indemnity which had been contained in many of the professional codes of conduct. For many healthcare professionals such cover will be provided by their employers. For example, professionals employed by the NHS will benefit from the NHS Indemnity scheme, and any claim for damages made against them relating to their clinical work within the NHS will be dealt with by NHS Resolution. However, those who practice privately will need to ensure they have appropriate indemnity cover; this includes dentists providing NHS primary care as they are not covered by the state-backed scheme.
Regulatory sanction for lack of indemnity
The requirement to have indemnity is underpinned by the importance of ensuring that patients who come to harm have an appropriate route to adequate compensation. Failure to have appropriate indemnity is treated as a serious issue by the regulators and can have serious consequences including regulatory sanctions and the serious risk of personal financial loss in the event that you have to defend a claim from your own resources.
The future of indemnity
At present professionals may arrange their indemnity through a defence organisation or an insurer. In late 2018 the Department of Health and Social Care [DHSC] launched a consultation exercise seeking views on two options in relation to the future of indemnity for healthcare professionals who are not covered under a Government indemnity scheme. The options were:
- To leave existing arrangements as they are; or
- To change legislation to require healthcare professionals who are not covered by any state-backed scheme to hold cover that is regulated i.e insurance cover rather than membership of a defence organisation.
The DHSC has yet to report on the outcome of that consultation or its plans in respect of further reform. All of the major defence organisations opposed the second option.
Why NHS Staff need to consider indemnity
Whilst many healthcare professionals now benefit from state backed indemnity arrangements it is crucially important to note that those arrangements provide no assistance to individuals in dealing with regulatory or police investigations, performers list proceedings or inquests. Nor do they provide access to independent ethical or legal advice. We continue to be surprised by the number of professionals who only learn this when they have already become the subject of an investigation and it is too late to arrange cover.
All healthcare professionals should consider carefully the indemnity arrangements which they rely upon and should actively consider whether they have an appropriate arrangement for support in dealing with disciplinary or criminal complaints, as well as cover to address civil claims in negligence.
Click on the links below for each regulator’s indemnity information
 The Health Care and Associated Professions (Indemnity Arrangements) Order 2014
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.