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Nurses call for clearer rules on their legal protection in a public emergency

The results of an NT survey show that more than one in 10 nurses would be unwilling to use thier clincal skills to provide care in a public emergency because of a lack of clarity regarding legal protection if things went wrong.

The survey asked nurses whether they would act to intervene in an emergency or accident when not at work.

Of the 3,500 survey respondents, 87% said that they would become involved in a situation even if they thought they were not indemnified, nearly two-thirds said they had previously used their clinical skills in such a situation and 89% said they would feel uncomfortable not doing so.

‘I wouldn’t walk away if I felt I could help out but I may not necessarily identify myself as a nurse,’ said one respondent.

Another said: ‘Ethics take priority over law and indemnification.’

However, employers do not typically cover nurses as part of their employees’ indemnity insurance if they intervene outside work and are then found negligent for the care they have provided.

Chris Cox, acting director of legal services at the RCN, said that although there was no legal duty to intervene, once a nurse had chosen to do so they created a ‘legal duty of care’ and could, therefore, be found negligent over the care given.

More than nine out of 10 respondents said clearer guidance was needed on providing care while not at work, with 69% saying they did not know whether they were covered under indemnity insurance if they offered care in such a circumstance.

‘It is essential that these issues are addressed in the current blame culture,’ said one respondent.

‘The information surrounding this subject can send you in circles,’ said another.

‘I have never really thought about whether I was indemnified in an emergency situation. Doing this survey has bought it into focus,’ added a further respondent.

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