Practice nurses and registrants working in the independent sector have been urged to check their insurance arrangements to make sure they are covered in case something goes wrong.
The call, from lawyers, comes in the light of new legislation that makes all registered nurses and midwives responsible for ensuring they have appropriate indemnity cover.
The change – introduced by the government to strengthen patient protection – means anyone joining the nursing register or renewing their registration must declare they have appropriate insurance.
“I personally would be inclined to stop work until I was properly assured by my employers that the correct cover was in place”
Nurses working for the NHS should be automatically covered by their employer’s insurance. However, those working outside the health service, or nurses and midwives who are self-employed, have been advised to check their insurance arrangements.
“People have to bear in mind… they will now have to evidence they have got those indemnity arrangements in place,” said Christian Dingwall, partner and head of the corporate commercial department at the health and social care law firm Hempsons.
“For most people that will simply be demonstrating they’re in NHS employment – that’s not a problem,” he said. “However, if they do have any additional private practice then they will need to demonstrate cover for that.
“People working for private sector organisations should check their employer has got appropriate insurance in place,” he warned.
Andrew Lockhart-Mirams, senior partner at Lockharts Solicitors, also recommended practice nurses checked that their GP employer’s indemnity policy covered nursing staff.
“It would ordinarily be the case that the GP principals would be vicariously liable for any wrongdoing committed by the nurse,” he said. “To be on the safe side, an employed nurse in such a situation should insist on seeing confirmation that the GPs medical defence organisation cover extends to the work done by the nursing staff.
“If there is prevarication about this I personally would be inclined to stop work until I was properly assured by my employers that the correct cover was in place,” he added.
The new rules, which come into force from the end of this month, coincide with recent changes to the Royal College of Nursing’s indemnity scheme, which mean it no longer covers employed nurses.
Aesthetic nursing practice – including cosmetic procedures like Botox injections – are also no longer covered by the RCN scheme because of the higher risk of compensation claims linked to this kind of work.
Self-employed nurses who are members of the RCN may be covered by the college’s “fall back” indemnity scheme. However, self-employed nurses who are not RCN members will need to make their own insurance arrangements.
One group that may particularly struggle are independent midwives. Cases where babies have been harmed in childbirth have results in multi-million pound compensation awards, making the cost of indemnity insurance prohibitively expensive for individuals.
Mr Dingwall said: “Unless you’re providing an NHS service and are able to access the NHS Litigation Authority’s clinical negligence scheme, it’s very difficult to see how independent midwives would be able to afford the insurance premiums in order to continue to practice.”