From January 2012 the RCN will change its policy to ensure that medical defence organisations representing GPs are ‘not able to come to the RCN to try to recover costs if an RCN member is involved in a clinical negligence action taken against the practice’.
Practices will need to ensure they have indemnity arrangements in place to cover not just GPs, but other staff as well.
The move has led to fears that practices could be forced to pay more for indemnity to cover the costs defence organisations will no longer be able to claim back from the RCN.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that all practices should contact their defence organisation to check if they need additional cover.
The RCN said it paid out annually on 40 to 50 cases involving practice nurses, at a total cost of around £5m.
Dr Vautrey said this was ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared with total indemnity payouts for practices each year.
Medical Protection Society policy director Dr Stephanie Bown added: ‘We do not anticipate that the RCN’s withdrawal of indemnity for nurses’ professional practice will have a direct impact on the cost of indemnity for GPs.’
But she added that although individual indemnity cover for GPs covered errors by staff under the concept of ‘vicarious liability’ for the actions and omissions of staff, this would not apply to staff ‘with high levels of clinical autonomy’.
‘Staff working in a clinically autonomous role must have their own indemnity in place,’ Dr Bown said. She urged practices to review their indemnity if they previously relied on RCN indemnity for nurses.
Medical defence organisations currently offer deals that extend cover to all staff if a number of GPs in a practice have individual indemnity with the same organisation.