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Advice on indemnity cover for locum nurses

Employers, i.e. GP practices, are expected to provide indemnity cover for nurses. Other practice staff healthcare staff on employment contracts are generally covered by the employer’s vicarious liability.

GP practices should also, as a matter of course, check that locum staff have adequate cover before taking them on. If in doubt, practices should seek advice from their own medical defence organisation (MDO). Some MDOs may extend cover to locum nurses too.

Independent practitioners, however, should really have their own professional liability cover. Self-employed nurses can obtain cover through membership of the Royal College of Nursing. The RCN Indemnity guidance states the following (page 7):

Working on a self-employed basis or running your own business

The RCN scheme will cover members in their own business, subject to the general conditions and exclusions, and dependent on the type of activity you are undertaking.

Even in the case of nurse locums who are provided through an agency, the locum nurse should take responsibility for finding out whether they either receive professional indemnity cover through the practice where they will be providing locum cover, through their agency or if they are expected to arrange their own professional cover.

The NHS Employer’s professional indemnity FAQs say the following:

Q2. I am employed by a GP practice.

You should be covered by your employer. System regulators (CQC etc.) expect all employers to acknowledge their vicarious liability for the actions of their employees and make their own appropriate insurance arrangements. If you are uncertain ask your employer about their insurance cover.

Q6. I’m self employed

You will need to find insurance that is appropriate for the type and scope of your practise. Your professional body may be able to provide you with more information.

The NHS Litigation Authority’s guidance NHS Indemnity states the following (page 6):

Who is not covered?

9. NHS Indemnity does not apply to general medical and dental practitioners working under contracts for services. General practitioners, including GP fundholders, are responsible for making their own indemnity arrangements, as are other self-employed health care professionals such as independent midwives. Neither does NHS Indemnity apply to employees of general practices, whether fundholding or not, or to employees of private hospitals (even when treating NHS patients) local education authorities or voluntary agencies.

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) website states the following:

8. Are locum nurses eligible for Associate Membership?

Locum nurses who are self-employed are likely to benefit from indemnity through Royal College of Nursing (RCN) membership, and this should be encouraged in the first instance. Associate Membership of MDDUS may be available to nurses who are working in practices on this basis. Practices should contact MDDUS’s membership team for advice on their specific circumstances.

The legislation requiring nurses to be covered for professional liabilities is The Health Care and Associated Professions (Indemnity Arrangements) Order 2014


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