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, 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.
Are you able to Speak out Safely?
Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS