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”
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.
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.