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RCN ceases providing indemnity cover for most members


The Royal College of Nursing has this week removed indemnity cover for the majority of its members working in the NHS and private sector.

The change, which was trailed in February, means members’ work under a contract of employment will no longer be covered by the RCN’s indemnity scheme against clinical negligence claims.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, the RCN has described the change as “small” and said it was in order to close a loophole that allowed employers to shift the costs of cover onto the college.

“Most members won’t notice a change at all”

Peter Carter

Under NHS arrangements for clinical negligence claims, health service organisations are vicariously liable for their employees.

This means staff are covered by their trust’s own indemnity cover.

The RCN has argued that some employers were passing on claims relating to its members to the college, rather than meeting them themselves. It said this was costing it about £5m a year.

As a result of the RCN change, which came into force on 1 July, work undertaken by RCN members who are employed will be excluded from its scheme’s coverage.

In contrast, most self-employed members will remain covered by the RCN scheme. The exception is aesthetic practice, which will also be excluded because of the high claims risk associated with this area of practice.

“Good Samaritan” work continues to be covered by the scheme and £3m cover is still available for voluntary work and education placements.

However, the RCN was heavily criticised over a similar decision to withdraw its indemnity cover for members working in general practice from January 2012.

Announcing the move at its 2011 annual congress, the college said the change was to prevent medical defence organisations, which provide indemnity cover to GPs, from being able to recover costs from the RCN where one its members was at fault.

But many RCN members were unconvinced. One speaker said it was an “own goal for the RCN,” warning that practice nurses could leave the college as a matter of principle.

Peter Carter

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the latest change meant the college “can focus on protecting, representing and supporting members in other work-related and professional legal areas”.

“The RCN will continue to represent and support all members in the workplace and at the Nursing and Midwifery Council,” he added.


Readers' comments (29)

  • So, what is the point in being in this union now then?

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  • The RCN claim most self employed nurses will be covered but this simply isn't true.

    If your business/service employs or works with others who are not RCN members, even volunteers, you are no longer covered.

    This means that social enterprise is unlikely to be supported by the RCN's cover.

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  • I was going to join the RCN as I considered the indemnity cover they offered to be a positive reason for joining and very useful peace of mind in this litigious world we nurse in.Now I won't bother joining.

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  • The indemnity cover has always been the main reason for my being in the RCN - right back from when they used to advertise with the line "One day a mistake may cost you £xxxxx" (I can't remember the exact amount it was 30 years ago but it was a lot, so must be a much lotter now). Now I am not so sure. They kept that quiet, didn't they?

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  • Florence

    What do I get for my membership fee?

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  • No point being a member now then is there....where are my Unison application forms??!

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  • I have to say that the indemnity cover was what attracted me to the RCN (and a slightly flashy badge) at the time, this has me wondering where my future subs will go.

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  • Mr Carter says the RCN will ‘focus on protecting, representing and supporting members in other work-related and professional legal areas”.
    I so wish they would. At we regularly hear from RCN members who have felt abandoned by the organisation. Some of the fulltime officers are very helpful – respond to telephone calls, answer emails, give speedy support and believe their member. Sadly that is regularly not the case and it is quite the opposite, with worse case scenarios being where the member has concluded that the officer is actually working with the management. Remember how whistleblowers disappear without trace - helped by the union.
    Interestingly I have never heard of the union asking for feedback on its services. I get the impression they not only wouldn’t dare, they just don’t understand the distress of their members and the urgent help they need ie they don’t care either.
    Julie Fagan, founder member of the Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK (CAUSE)

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  • I left as soon as this was announced, and am now in Unison. I wrote to the RCN asking why the indemnity insurance which was promoted as a major reason for belonging to the RCN, is now said never to have been necessary for most employed members. I had said that I considered this mis-selling, and that we should be compensated. Their reply states that the insurance was NOT promoted as a major reason for joining, and no compensation would be considered. I'm pleased to see that anonymous 4th July 3.23pm and 4.59pm also remember differently! At least the banks are paying back the PPI.....

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  • I joined because my employer withdrew they're indemnity insurance cover for us nurses last year.
    Now the RCN has withdrawn its cover so what is the point in remaining as a member

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