Medical defence and indemnity
Does the NHS provide medical indemnity for its employees?
The NHS Litigation Authority provides indemnity to employees in respect of clinical negligence claims. There are equivalent organisations in the Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Since 1990, the NHS has had financial responsibility for negligence attributable to medical and dental staff employed in the hospital and community health services. Most doctors employed by the NHS are covered for the duties listed in their contract by the Hospital and Community Health Services indemnity scheme (often called NHS or Crown Indemnity), and are not obliged by law to take out additional medical defence cover.
Will this provide sufficient cover?
Health service indemnity schemes in place across the UK provide support for clinical negligence claims, but not for disciplinary issues, or referrals to the General Medical Council. There will also be situations where NHS indemnity does not apply. We strongly recommend that you take out supplementary insurance with one of the medical defence bodies or provide yourself with other personal indemnity insurance.
This is because the NHS indemnity scheme ONLY covers medical negligence claims which arise from contracted NHS duties.
The following are examples of eventualities and activities which are not covered:
- defence of medical staff in GMC disciplinary proceedings for stopping at a roadside accident, and other good Samaritan acts not listed in your contract
- clinical trials not covered under legislation
- work for any outside agency on a contractual basis
- work for voluntary or charitable bodies
- work overseas
It is essential that you understand exactly what your NHS contracted duties are (if necessary, ask your employer for clarification). Then you should decide what separate indemnity cover you need for any work you may do that is not covered by the NHS scheme, and seek advice from one of the medical defence societies with regard to the type of liability insurance you will require.
Are General Practitioners covered by the NHS scheme?
GP contractors, locum GPs and salaried GPs employed by practices are not covered by the NHS scheme and should seek advice from the medical defence organisations about personal medical indemnity cover. GPs employed by other NHS organisations should check with their employer whether they are covered by the NHS scheme and arrange for their own personal medical indemnity insurance if they are not.
Similarly, doctors undertaking private work or work in independent hospitals are responsible for arranging their own liability insurance with a medical defence body of their choice.
Who are the medical defence organisations?
Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) are mutual non-profit making organisations, owned by their members. All MDOs provide members with 24-hour access to advice and assistance on medico-legal issues arising from clinical practice which fall outside the scope of indemnity provided by NHS bodies.
There are three MDOs: Medical Defence Union (MDU), Medical Protection Society (MPS) and Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). As the benefits of membership of the MDOs differ, it is important that you consider each one carefully before making a choice.
How to contact the medical defence organisations:
Medical Defence Union (MDU)
230 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8YJ
Tel: 0800 716 376
Medical Protection Society (MPS)
33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS
Tel 0845 718 7187
Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS)
120 Blythswood Street, Glasgow G2 4EA
Tel: 0845 270 2034