Check insurance and indemnity cover, GMC tells doctors

The General Medical Council (GMC) has updated its guidance for doctors on insurance and indemnity to coincide with new state-backed clinical negligence schemes that launched this week for GPs across England and Wales.

Doctors have a statutory requirement to make sure their insurance and indemnity cover is adequate, and of sufficient value to cover any claims made on their clinical practice in the UK.

Any doctor covered by a state-backed scheme will therefore need to maintain membership of a medical defence organisation, indemnity provider or insurer to be covered for any non-NHS or private work they do.

The GMC’s updated guidance also applies to doctors with European-based cover, which may be affected if and when the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

There are two main changes to the GMC’s updated insurance and indemnity guidance:

  • Doctors need to consider whether they need additional cover as the new state-backed schemes do not cover:
    • Private or non-NHS work (if a doctor is treating NHS patients privately they must check with their employer what indemnity is in place).
    • Support or advice such as for criminal, disciplinary or fitness to practise investigations.
    • Employment or contractual disputes.
    • Liabilities that arise from a doctor's practice before they joined a state back scheme (i.e. 1 April 2019 for GPs in England and Wales).
  • Doctors who hold, or plan to hold, European-wide indemnity cover arranged outside the UK must check whether their policy will still cover their practice if and when the UK leaves the EU.

Kirstyn Shaw, Assistant Director for Policy, Information and Change at the GMC, says:

‘Insurance and indemnity is a complex area, and it is possible that some doctors might misunderstand the changes and end up with a gap in their cover, which could have serious consequences for them and their patients.

"We've updated our guidance to be as straightforward and clear as possible. Doctors are responsible for checking they have adequate cover for all aspects of their practice. Any doctors unsure about their current indemnity arrangements should contact their existing provider or insurer to check they are fully covered."

Kirstyn Shaw

Assistant Director for Policy, Information and Change

The GMC has regulatory powers to check whether doctors have adequate and appropriate cover, and can remove a doctor’s license if it is not in place. The GMC can also refuse to grant a license to a doctor if sufficient cover is not in place when they start practising in the UK. 

Please visit these pages for more information on the new state-backed clinical negligence schemes for England and clinical negligence schemes for Wales.