Author: Warren Town, Director of Industrial Strategy
Many of you will know that the SoR has been in discussion with the underwriter that provides the members' professional indemnity insurance. The scheme has been in existence since the 1960s and is overdue for review.
It is important that members and third parties clearly understand what the policy covers, what is excluded, and why.
The revisions to the policy do not affect Society members who have a contract of employment with the NHS, or an independent provider.
The Society's professional indemnity policy is often termed ‘top up’ cover, or ‘secondary’ insurance: it provides peace of mind that if an individual is named in an action that occurred whilst they were in employment, that there is legal support and representation from their trade union.
Many cases are also referred to the Health and Care Professions Council and, by managing the legal claim and registration enquiries, the Society can provide comprehensive support to members.
The updating of the policy was requested by the underwriter because of an escalation in claims and because there have been changes in recent years in the way that members are engaged to deliver health care.
Companies which employ staff on an ad hoc basis may seek to avoid the cost of providing insurance cover for medical malpractice. The companies insist that individuals they employ in this way are members of the Society, in the mistaken belief that the individual's PII cover will be sufficient to cover the person and the company against any claims.
It is contrary to employment law to make it a condition of a contract that a person must be a member of a trade union. It is also not for the company to imply, or to say, that by virtue of trade union membership, the company and the individual will be insured. To do so is to try to shift any risk, which can be considerable, to the Society.
A number of SoR members earn income by working as a sole trader, or sub-contract their services via an agency, or work through an 'umbrella' company, or take ad hoc work for which they are paid cash in hand.
They are, of course, free to generate income in these ways, but they should be aware that if they accept work without a contract of employment, they are accepting the possibility of litigation at their own risk unless they take steps to protect themselves in the event of a claim or legal action.
The Society has discussed the option of top-up cover with the underwriter to allow members who are not covered by the SoR PII, access to another type of insurance. Because of the relative number of members is small, and because of the high risks involved, the underwriter is not interested in providing a policy for individuals who undertake work not covered by a contract of employment.
The Society is not attempting to stop members working outside the NHS, for other employers, or to supplement their income, but it is important they are aware that if they work independently, they recognise and address the risks.
The SoR recognises many members are providing vital services to the NHS which are well managed and competent. However, as with all insurances, it is the minority who create the greatest risk and jeopardise access to the scheme for the majority of members.
If you are concerned that you are undertaking work that may not be covered by the Society's professional indemnity insurance, contact the Society's PII administrator Liz Robinson.