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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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  • Pussy

    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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  • I am just the same as anonymous at 2.42 and all the others. I am sure this is representative of many nurses! "What's the point" I hear them all cry, may as well move my subscription cost to cover indemnity that is going to help me if the worst happens! Come on RCN give the members something for their money instead of paying for representation, that isn't worth a carrot! I won't be joining either!

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  • how odd. we were advised to join for the insurance and these were the only ones to provide it at the time I qualified and i have paid my sub ever since. now i just pay a nominal sum as an associate member to access their library which is the only service I find worthwhile and use.

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  • The RCN still has a decent library, I suppose. The restaurant used to be OK when I was in London, but it's not much use if you're anywhere else in the UK! RCN was always a metropolitan centred organisation, even when it enjoyed real credibility and clout.

    I find the RCN a bit of a let-down as a union, since they've always opted out of the excellent TUC education programmes and this leaves staff reps pretty exposed compared with Unison and Unite stewards.

    They have failed at the 'art and science of nursing' objective behind their charter. The ground breaking research monographs of the 1970s seem like they were produced by another RCN altogether: one that cared about the quality & delivery of care for patients.

    Some of their recent policy pronouncements became so professionally embarrassing to me that I felt I had to resign my membership. It's just not going anywhere as an organisation and this is reflected in their poor advocacy for nursing at a time when the profession is under great strain.

    I'm descended from a founder member of the then College of Nursing, but I don't think the current RCN is something she would've struggled for. It's sad.

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  • RCN- what is the point! Most only join because of the indemnity. Join Unison or Unite- I left the RCN couple of years ago as disillusioned with them.

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  • I assume, being self-employed, that I'll still be covered? If I had my way, I would have left the RCN years ago but most clients seem to think that the RCN insurance is superior and the gold standards. If only! My own insurance is far superior to that of the RCN. I only wish I could convince my clients of this but they seem to think that 'Royal College' means something more than it actually does. Apart from the insurance, I've had nothing of value from the RCN in the past 20 years. It's about time they looked at providing a service for us instead of just resting upon their name.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jul-2014 9:57 pm

    might be an idea - if the RCN is that important it could be more in touch with its members with regional branches and a good library and/or other important or useful services or at least a restaurant or café where members could meet up socially or to discuss their personal and professional issues. Maybe that would also unite the profession more.

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  • I joined the RCN for indemnity. However I also joined the MDU as I thought they would be more help if I needed it.

    This stems from when I was injured at work several years ago. I was really desperate and turned to the RCN. I thought they would support me. They didn't offer me any help at all.

    I think I need to reassess the benefits.

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  • Like so many others I joined in 1985 when they they warned us we needed their indemnity cover. i can honestly say in nearly 30 yrs they have never helped me but i have kept paying for that reason. No reason to be in now! I will be looking into unison

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  • well I have just finished a return to practice course and was going to join the R.C.N. my main reason being indemnity insurance...whats the point in joining?!

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  • I suppose the question is why do we need to join any union? as employers are supposed to support their staff and to help them deliver high quality patient care. Is it just for the indemnity - then wouldn't it be better just to go straight into paying for a insurance policy to protect you in your practice instead and not to join any union?

    Also why pay when people can still benefit from union members who contribute their fees which goes towards collective bargaining of the unions with employers, which means that non-union members can also benefit without having paying into a union.

    At present, if things move towards industrial action and strikes, then union members might get protection, that's if people are bothered to take any action.

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