COVID-19 and indemnity cover: what you need to know

Members have been asking us about their indemnity cover during the pandemic, as some have found themselves redeployed into new areas and new challenges, like COVID-19 vaccination have entered the discussion.

Since 2014, all registered nurses have to have indemnity cover appropriate for their scope of practice to meet the costs of any clinical negligence compensation claim against them. They must confirm that they have such cover when they apply for admission to the NMC register and every time that they revalidate.

For the vast majority of our members, there is reassuring news. 

Anyone working in the NHS has always had automatic indemnity cover supplied by their employer, whatever their role, temporary or permanent. This is supplied by the relevant state-backed schemes across the UK.

Since April 2019, the government has stepped in with a very similar scheme for everyone working in GP practices in England and Wales. This includes locums and bank staff, and covers organisations privately providing GP services, like walk-in centres and out of hours services. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, GP practices are expected to provide indemnity cover for their employees.

In early 2020, the government passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 which contains emergency powers in response to the pandemic. One section introduced a new indemnity scheme called Clinical Negligence Scheme for Coronavirus (CNSC), for any pandemic-related claims that did not fall under any other scheme. Whilst other schemes should cover all situations, it was added to give peace of mind to those taking up new posts at short notice at the start of the emergency. 

The CNSC FAQ confirms that while the existing state indemnity coverage is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland to that in England and Wales, the indemnity powers provided by the Coronavirus Act 2020 are comparable across the four nations. In all four nations, staff providing NHS services related to the coronavirus outbreak will have indemnity under the Act, if not already covered by an existing indemnity arrangement. 

Now the focus is upon the vaccine. All staff delivering the vaccine will need indemnity cover as they do for any clinical task. Those working with state-supplied vaccines will be covered under the above schemes, including all students on placements.

Independent sector employees

Employers in the independent sector hold indemnity cover for their employees. If your employer is refusing to provide cover for you, please contact us for further support.

If you work in a GP practice, you may be aware that CNSGP does not cover members of staff administering the flu vaccine to other members of staff. However, staff will be deemed to be a patient cohort for the purposes of COVID-19 vaccines, and practice nurses will be covered by CNSGP for administering the vaccine to their colleagues.

In the future, we anticipate that some nurses will administer COVID-19 vaccinations on a private basis to individuals who perhaps do not yet qualify for a state-provided vaccine. We have already heard from some nurses who are conducting COVID-19 tests for privately paying individuals.

Unfortunately, due to the uncertainty of the risks, the RCN is unable to secure cover from its underwriters and COVID-19 testing and vaccination are excluded from the RCN scheme.

If you undertake this work, it is very important that you ensure your contract with the business offering the private service is absolutely clear. The business must have adequate indemnity cover for your work, even if you are self-employed.

If you have concerns, please contact us for advice, including guidance on the type of contract term to be included.