Dental indemnity providers respond to Government consultation

Dental indemnity providers respond to Government consultation

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has sought views about indemnity cover for dentists and other healthcare professionals who are not covered by any existing or proposed state-backed scheme, via an open consultation Appropriate clinical negligence cover which closed on 28 February. Three indemnity providers have responded.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “Discretionary indemnity as offered by Dental Protection has met the needs of healthcare professionals and patients for over 100 years and continues to do so. In their consultation document, the Government admits that they are only aware of a limited number of cases where current arrangements have caused any issues for patients or healthcare professionals and the examples referenced do not relate to the actions of Dental Protection.

“We are particularly concerned that these proposals would lead to dentists having to pay additional costs – including the cost of insurance premium tax – at a time when the rising cost of clinical negligence is becoming increasingly unaffordable. We are also concerned that the limits and exclusions of some insurance products may not sufficiently protect dentists against a claim; discretionary indemnity does not have such limits or exclusions.

“It is also vital that the Government advances its long awaited strategy for controlling the rising cost of clinical negligence. Dental Protection believes the impact of rising clinical negligence costs on dentists has received insufficient attention and is urging the Government to ensure that the forthcoming strategy tackles this problem head on. Urgent action is needed to ensure that the cost of clinical negligence is balanced with society’s ability to pay”

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: “As a not-for-profit mutual funded by our own members with no shareholders to pay, we have been serving and protecting our members for over 115 years. Our discretionary indemnity provides us with greater flexibility to assist our members and at the same time ensure proper compensation for patients harmed as a result of clinical negligence.

“We support regulation where there is a need but not regulation for the sake of it. Patients will not be better protected as a result of these proposals. This consultation provides no evidence of shortcomings in the current discretionary model and no evidence that regulation will better protect patients. The case for change simply hasn’t been made. And the consultation document, as our response shows, falls far short of the standards Government has set itself for considering change on this scale.

 “Indeed, instead of supporting choice and proposing concrete actions on legal reform that make a real difference, Government is seeking to impose a cost increase on healthcare professionals by moving to an insurance based model that will attract a 12% insurance premium tax. Only the Chancellor of the Exchequer benefits from that change. This consultation is yet another missed opportunity to tackle the real issues that are driving rising costs for healthcare professionals. Regulation won’t solve the problems of increasing clinical negligence costs. If Government is serious about reducing the cost and stress burdens of unjustified litigation on the NHS and GPs, then it needs a joined-up approach on tort reform.”

John Makin, Head of the Dental Defence Union stated: “The MDU has been indemnifying doctors and dentists and compensating patients for more than 130 years. This is a service from a not-for-profit mutual fund, subscribed by members, which can respond to requests for assistance however long after the clinical event the claim comes in. It does not impose financial caps and exclusions and, apart from NHS indemnity, is the only proven way of ensuring doctors and dentists are indemnified and patients are compensated for clinical negligence whenever the claim is made.

‘Clinical negligence claims are often made many years – 10, 20, 30 or more – after the incident and in order to compensate patients the indemnity must respond fully at the time of the claim. For example, in 2018 we assisted with a number of cases where the initial incident dates were in the 1990s and early 2000s. Additionally, over a 30 year career, a dentist might expect to face three clinical negligence claims.

‘In the past, we have provided our members with insurance policies as well as discretionary indemnity and each has pros and cons. Insurers must only adhere to the terms of the policy and be adequately capitalised for risks taken on. If the cover was required to extend to unlimited indemnity, without exclusions and conditions, it would be unaffordable. But this is what dental professionals need to meet claims which can arise many years after the clinical event.’

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