Practices warned off invalid locum insurance

Practices across the UK could be paying thousands of pounds a year for insurance that does not exist, the Financial Services Authority has warned.

Photograph: JH Lancy
Photograph: JH Lancy

The regulator says that Hertfordshire-based Aquote, whose policies are supposed to pay for locum cover in the event of sickness, is unauthorised and trading illegally.

‘We don't have a figure (for how many practices are affected),’ said a spokesman. He added that ‘from an unauthorised company it will be difficult to get your money back.’

Dr Henry Murray, a GP at the Newburgh Surgery on Tayside, bought individual cover from the company in 2005, after seeing an advert in the medical press. Two years later, impressed by the company's competitive rates, the partnership purchased a policy to cover the entire practice.

But Dr Murray became suspicious when he realized that, despite his requests to cancel his personal policy, Aquote was charging him twice. When he contacted the company to rectify the situation, it said there had been an error on the part of his bank, and suggested he take it up with it.

On closer inspection of the paperwork, it transpired that the policy had never been underwritten by an insurer.
His partner Dr Sonia Devereux said that the practice had been paying £2,800 a year since 2007 for the non-existent policy.

‘I didn't know to look for the sentence that says who the policy is underwritten by,’ she said. ‘My worry is that other people who think they have insurance policy will only find out that they don't if they try to use it.’

The practice has now reported the incident the police.

The FSA released a warning about Aquote's activities last month. It stated that it believes the company to be run by the former director of Synergys Ethical Limited, another insurance broker which closed following earlier warnings.

The spokesman warned consumers to check the credentials of all insurance brokers against its database — even where they claim to be FSA regulated.

Calls to Aquote went unanswered, and the company failed to respond to requests for interviews.

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