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Statutory insurance or indemnity for doctors and dentists

7 January 2011

New legislation is to be introduced making it a legal requirement for all healthcare professionals to have either insurance or indemnity cover as a condition of their registration.

This outcome is set out in a response from the four UK health administrations to an independent review on the matter led by Finlay Scott, the former Chief Executive of the General Medical Council.

The review, commissioned by the former Labour government, was established to make recommendations as to whether requiring healthcare professionals to have adequate indemnity cover in place as a condition of their registration was the “most cost effective and proportionate means of ensuring that there is a means of seeking redress where a healthcare professional has been negligent”.

Representatives from regulators, professional bodies, patient groups and other interested parties, including MDDUS, offered their views and the report was published in June.

In a joint response to the report the four UK health administrations accepted the main principles – agreeing that provisions for statutory insurance or indemnity should be consistent across health regulation and that legislative changes to make this law should be introduced at the “next most appropriate opportunity”.

The response further stated that any legislative changes must be considered in light of the new EU requirements on cross-border patients’ rights ensuring a mechanism of redress which places responsibility for cover on employing healthcare providers or individual healthcare professionals if acting independently.

On the question of insurance versus discretionary indemnity cover, Dr Scott commented:

“In the course of the review, one defence organisation argued that only insurance should be accepted as meeting the condition of registration because discretionary indemnity, by its nature, did not provide the guarantee associated with a contract of insurance. Officials confirmed that both insurance and indemnity were acceptable and I did not consider the issue further.”

This brings to an end the long running issue of whether insurance, as offered by an insurance policy, or indemnity from a mutual indemnity provider such as MDDUS, should be the only method of ensuring doctors are indemnified. The Government has clearly decided that both are equally acceptable.

Further information can be found on the Department of Health web site at Independent review of the requirement to have insurance or indemnity as a condition of registration as a healthcare professional – Government response

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