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RCN to end indemnity cover for majority of members

Members of the Royal College of Nursing who work for the NHS, private sector or independently in aesthetics will no longer be covered by the union’s indemnity scheme from July.

The RCN 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.

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

But the RCN argued that some employers were passing on claims relating to its members to the college, rather than meeting them themselves.

As a result of the RCN change, which comes into force on 1 July 2014, work undertaken by RCN members who are employed – for example by the health service or a private provider – will be excluded from its scheme’s coverage.

Most self-employed members will remain covered by the RCN scheme, but aesthetic practice will also be excluded from 1 July because of the high claims risk associated with this area of practice.

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

The change will stop the college from “inadvertently subsidising under-performing employers”, the RCN said in a statement announcing the change. It said the change was expected to achieve “big savings” over time.

The RCN said it currently worked on about 50 indemnity cases a year where an employer had passed on the claim, costing it about £5m.

Peter Carter

Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “This [change] ensures the responsibility for claims rests with those who should be paying – namely the employer – so we can focus on protecting, representing and supporting members in other work-related and professional legal areas.”

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

The college advised self-employed members to check the terms of the RCN scheme regularly and to ask for advice from RCN Direct, if they were unsure their practice is covered.

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.


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Readers' comments (27)

  • Well, I'm sure that the RCN will lose a lot of members over this. If the indemnity cover is lost, then there is very little they will have left to offer us. As it is now, they aren't that helpful if you have a problem and need help.They are also very expensive.

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  • Well that's decided it for me. After 13 years as a nurse with RCN I am off to Unison.

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  • I can't understand why anyone would want to be in RCN. They seem like a spineless bunch. Come on over to Unison!

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  • The RCN always made a big deal about their indemnity cover and as a non-RCN member I always said it was useless if you were in the NHS. If you are going to switch, Unite would be a better choice. The only union to oppose the watering-down of the Agenda for Change contract. Many interesting articles in Private Eye about Unison if you need more evidence.

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  • eileen shepherd

    I remember back in the 1980s being sold RCN membership on the basis of the indemnity cover. While aware of vicarious liability I always kept my RCN membership when I was in practice as a safety net. I suppose like many nurses I felt reassure by it.
    This change in policy will confuse alot of nurses and create some anxiety. It raises the question why offer cover if it is not needed?

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  • Why remove Gail Adams' comment? She wasn't offensive.

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  • We should all defect to another union that will truly protect our interests. If the RCN see that there is going to be a mass exodus they may back down.

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  • A large part of the benefit which I have until now paid for with my subscription is shortly to be removed, so would the RCN kindly tell me by how much my subscription will now be reduced? As Eileen says above, the indemnity cover was the main reason for many of us joining the RCN, and was promoted as essential. Now we are told it never was. Will we now have compensation for this mis-selling, as we would for PPI?

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  • Without the indemnity, really what is the point of being in the RCN?

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  • I bet they don't reduce the union dues.

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  • My renewal documents that I received recently say "you will continue to be protected should you need indemnity cover", then an asterisk, and a note saying "terms and conditions apply, please visit the website". For such an important change, written information should have been included with the renewal, and not involve another step to find it out. The info on the website is short, and would easily fit on the letter. Why was it hidden away?

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  • I don't know what else the RCN needs to do to make people wake up and realise that they're wasting their hard-earned cash by paying into this useless organisation?

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  • With the NMC insisting on us having indemnity cover soon in order to register, it seems ludicrous that a union that considers itself a nursing union, is now withdrawing the indemnity cover for a huge amount of it's registered members. Time for all to desert them methinks.

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  • I've just cancelled my direct debit. There's no benefit belonging to this organisation. They have never been any help on the couple of occasions when I have needed it either, I have had to get advice elsewhere.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Feb-2014 9:37 pm

    The RCN has offered this 'indemnity' insurance knowing fine well that the likelihood of its insurers having to pay-out was infinitesimal. It was just a ruse in order to keep punters paying into its coffers.

    In these ever increasingly litigious times, and with the NMC demanding we have indemnity insurance, the RCN has pulled the plug knowing that they may actually have to pay out.

    Please wake up and cancel your direct debit.

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  • My personal belief is NO INDEMNITY COVER NO MEMBERSHIP!!
    Lets face it...what on earth does the RCN do anyway??
    I am very fortunate enough to be a member of an awesome union who leads every nurse for FAIR conditions. They would NEVER do this. NEVER.
    And to take this essential cover away?
    Ask yourselves now...What else will the RCN do for me and for what fees I am paying?
    And if its not what you know they should be doing....
    I advise you CANCEL your membership.
    They should be respecting what nurses put themselves at risk of every shift they work.
    Its disgraceful really. :(

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  • Yvonne Bates | 6-Feb-2014 1:07 pm

    I'll tell you what they do: absolutely naff-all of any use to your average nurse. The RCN offers very poor staff side representation, but then again all most all of their union reps are ward managers or higher. RCN reps are management, no wonder nurses conditions are diminishing year on year.

    Do yourself a favour and give yourself a £200 a year pay rise and cancel your RCN membership!

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  • Anonymous 11.59am

    I've started to look at which Union I will now join, and will be cancelling my RCN membership as soon as I've got another one in place.

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  • ANON:6th Feb @1:47
    If I was back in UK I would not be in the RCN
    I live in Melbourne, Australia.
    We ARE the union and we unite and fight for patient and staff care.
    I pay my fees for an amazing nurses union.
    I think your unions should have got up off their backsides and earnt the money that you all have been paying them. Its very sad that nurses still seem to have no real union support to get better wages and conditions.

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  • Was Gail Adams comment removed? The Gail Adams of Unison?

    Can't imagine her being inappropriate

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