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Health Act 1999

Section 9: Indemnity cover for Part II services

118.Section 9 gives the Secretary of State new powers to make professional indemnity cover mandatory in the NHS. It enables the Secretary of State by regulation to require professional indemnity cover for all, or any, of the professions providing Part II services under the NHS Act 1977 (GPs, dentists, pharmacists and optometrists).

119.Neither doctors nor dentists are required to maintain professional indemnity cover. The NHS has made arrangements to indemnify those employed by them, but this does not cover practitioners providing Part II services, who are independent contractors.

120.New section 43C enables the Secretary of State by regulation to require all, or any, of the practitioners providing Part II services, to have approved professional indemnity cover provided by an approved body.

121.The regulations may make different provisions for different categories of practitioner or classes of case. For some practitioners, holding approved indemnity cover may be a condition of entry to and continued inclusion on the relevant Part II list. (Part II practitioners must be included on a Health Authority list if they are to provide NHS services in that Health Authority area.) For others it may be a terms of service requirement. This flexibility reflects the widely differing arrangements for the four professions.

122.Once a practitioner who is required to hold professional indemnity cover is included on a Health Authority’s list, the Health Authority will need to review the indemnity cover held by that practitioner at regular intervals. Regulations under section 43C of the 1977 Act, as inserted by section 9, may therefore require practitioners to provide the Health Authority with evidence that they hold approved cover when requested. The result of failure to comply would mean removal from the list. Where practitioners are required to provide evidence, the section contemplates that there will be a period of grace to enable the practitioner to comply with the requirements, before the Health Authority removes him from its list.

123.In the case of dental and optical corporate bodies, the clinicians employed by these bodies must also be on the Health Authority list and are responsible for employed assistants within the company. Pharmaceutical companies providing community pharmacy, however, are themselves on the list of each Health Authority in whose area they provide those services. The provisions described above therefore apply equally to corporate bodies.

124.Subsection (3) provides that indemnity cover, which may be through membership of a defence society or a suitable insurance policy, is to be approved indemnity cover with an approved body. This enables the Secretary of State to ensure that the cover is adequate to meet the anticipated level of claims. It is intended that the regulations will ensure through the approval mechanism that cover will still meet claims that arise from events when the clinician was covered but only come to light later, even if this is after the period of cover has ceased.

125.The approved indemnity could also be required to cover other persons, such as employees, assistants or deputies of the practitioner. The intention is that the cover currently held by responsible practitioners should be quite adequate to meet any new requirements, and only those contractors who fall short of reasonable cover will find themselves affected.

126.Section 9 does not alter the law of tort or contract and accordingly does not confer on any person a right to recover compensation in any case in which he has no such right at present. Its purpose is simply to ensure that where a person does have such a right he will actually be able to recover the compensation.

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