The government is to reconsider plans that would require all nurses and midwives to buy clinical insurance cover before they can register to practise, Nursing Times has learnt.
The Department of Health had been on the verge of pushing through a rapid consultation on proposals to introduce compulsory professional indemnity for nurses and midwives in a system which would mirror the way doctors already pay for their own insurance, as revealed by Nursing Times in April.
However, unions who were concerned that the new proposals could have led to a fundamental shift in the NHS stance on the issue of clinical negligence have forced the government to reconsider its plans.
Most NHS staff currently have ‘vicarious’ indemnity through their NHS employers but the government proposals would have seen the onus being placed on individual nurses to ensure they had indemnity cover – indemnity for an independent nurse can currently cost as much as £500 a year.
A letter sent to Unison general secretary Dave Prentis by health secretary Alan Johnson on 21 May – and seen by Nursing Times – confirms that the DH has agreed to ‘pause and take stock of whether compulsory professional indemnity is the most effective way’ of giving patients compensation if they suffer harm through the negligence of a healthcare professional.
A DH spokesperson confirmed that the government had held discussions with the unions about their concerns over the issue and that the health secretary had ‘written to them about our intentions’.
Unison’s head of health Karen Jennings said she was pleased that Mr Johnson had listened to union concerns and that the government had agreed to ‘develop a much more effective and proportionate way of ensuring this works rather than making every single nursing professional in the country have indemnity insurance’.
RCN policy adviser Howard Catton said he was pleased that the government was going to take more time to examine the proposals. ‘It is a serious issue, we want to see a solution to this but it has to be proportionate, these proposals would have meant using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,’ he said.