The union Unite has rejected government plans to require health professionals to have indemnity insurance in order to practise, arguing that it could cost health visitors and school nurses £1,200 a year.
The legal move was recommended by a government-commissioned independent review in 2010 and is also a requirement of a European Union directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. It is intended to ensure patients can seek compensation if harmed due to the negligence of healthcare professionals.
Unless self-employed, almost all health professionals are already covered by the indemnity of their employer under what is known in legal terms as “vicarious liability” and may also be covered by a separate scheme if they are a member of a union.
The government has stated that employer indemnity schemes “would be sufficient to meet” the new requirements.
A government consultation on its proposed legislation – known officially as the Health Care and Associated Professions (Indemnity Arrangements) Order 2013 – was held between 22 February and 17 May.
But Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, has claimed that employers are increasingly refusing to provide its members with indemnity.
It argues that union schemes are designed merely as a “top up” to those provided by employers and, therefore, health professionals will be forced to pay for their own indemnity to be fully covered.
In its formal response to the consultation, the union said: “Our members increasingly tell us that employers are refusing to provide them with cover and are insisting that they take out their own at their own cost.
“We consider that it should and indeed must be mandatory for employers to provide the appropriate cover for their employees as this is the best way to offer protection to the public.”
The union said it estimated the taking out personal indemnity cover would cost its members £50-£100 per month.
Unite professional officer Jane Beach added: “Many health professionals, buffeted by ever-rising living costs, won’t be able to pay this ‘tax’.”
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