Medical Defence: Insurance & Indemnity – do I need it?

  • April 10, 2020

Medical Defence, via insurance or immunity, can be important for international doctors.

As an overseas doctor there are many things to consider when setting up your new life in the UK, one of which is your medical defence and whether to pay for additional cover. In this article we will help explain medical defence, considering the following topics:

What is medical defence and do I need it?

Unfortunately, human error is unavoidable and covering yourself against any claim is vital to the continuation of your career as a UK doctor. Appropriate medical defence will provide support for clinical negligence claims made against you whilst working in the UK. 

It is a GMC requirement to have adequate or appropriate insurance in place to cover the full scope of your practice in the UK. 

What indemnity will my trust provide me?

Your NHS Trust will provide you indemnity for the work you are assigned as part of your contract, and you are not legally obliged to take out separate indemnity.

However, your NHS Trust indemnity will cover the bare minimum and any extra work you do outside of the specific list of duties in your contract is not covered. 

In addition, your Trust indemnity will not cover you for complaints made against you specifically. This includes Trust disciplinary hearings, GMC hearings, criminal investigations, coroner inquests or any private work you undertake.

In summary, it is strongly advisable to take out separate indemnity to cover you against all eventualities as a doctor.

Types of Medical Defence:

There are two types of medical defence: 

  • Indemnity 
  • Insurance

Indemnity works on the basis that the claim is covered as long as the cover was in place at the time the incident occurred.

Insurance only covers you whilst the policy is in place and/or for a defined period after – called the ‘run off’ period.

With the nature of work many doctors prefer indemnity over insurance, as claims can arise years after the event. This rings particularly true in cases involving children where 10+ years can pass before a claim is made.

Who can I get Medical Defence from?

There are three major Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) who provide indemnity cover, not insurance. All of them are not-for-profit organisations rather than commercial companies and these are:

The benefits of membership of the MDOs differ, it is important that you consider each one carefully before making a choice.

IMG Connect's advice:

Anyone you speak to will strongly advise a doctor working in the UK to take out separate indemnity insurance. This is vital to ensure you are covered at any point you actively practiced as a doctor in the UK.  For avoidance of doubt, consider the significance of the risks for not doing so.

We would suggest treating your defence cover as if it were any other utility or provider, and shop around to make sure you get the most comprehensive package at the best value for money.

At IMG Connect we are not legal advisors and we want to make clear that we are offering our advice based on conversations with the GMC and any doctors we have worked with. We strongly advise you to seek a professional opinion to form the basis of your decision.

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