Coronavirus Act and health service indemnity

Health service indemnification. Relax. ‘Safety-net’ cover for health and care staff carrying out additional work during the coronavirus outbreak.

These new provisions are set out at Part 1 section 11 (Indemnity for health service activity in England and Wales) of the Coronavirus Act and came into force on 25 March 2020.

It is likely, NHS staff and all health and care workers (including medical students and others) will be called upon to undertake activates not normally regarded as part of their ‘normal’ day-to-day roles and duties.

This will include not only staff within the hospital setting but others like GPs, practice nurses and dentists.

Section 11 provides the necessary reassurance in respect of indemnity for the clinical negligence liabilities of healthcare professionals and others arising out of NHS activities undertaken during the coronavirus outbreak. It covers those who provide additional support in dealing with patients who have or who are suspected of having coronavirus. It also covers these staff brought in to cover ‘business-as-usual’ activities and, in particular, where such activity may be outside the scope of their normal duties. 

This cover is in addition to the normal cover under CNST (Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts) and so it does not apply where cover is already provided by CNST or CNSGP (Clinical negligence Scheme for General Practice). The reason being, the state-backed cover is designed to cover the vast majority of health and care provision as a consequence of a public health crisis such as this.

Those who rely entirely on cover through a defence organisation, professional body or through commercial insurance are not covered through CNST or CNSGP. So, for example, those who undertake wholly private practice need to check with their insurers.

Action

It will still be necessary to assess competence and provide appropriate supervision, so you need to ensure you have in place appropriate provision to ensure that the use of staff in these circumstances is practical and effective.

The General Medical Council has published a joint statement with other statutory health and care regulators, setting out how they will carry out their roles during the pandemic.

Do get in touch if you have any questions about the Act’s new powers on health service indemnity.

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