Making a mistake in a business environment can have significant financial consequences. But for healthcare professionals, the stakes are considerably higher. When oversights at work threaten the wellbeing, or even the survival, of a patient, you could be found liable for a claim of medical negligence. These claims can lead to a costly lawsuit and an extortionate compensation payout, which can quickly run up a bill into the millions. Healthcare professional insurance is a way for medical professionals to protect themselves financially against claims of wrongdoing at work.
Find out how healthcare professional insurance works in this helpful guide, which covers the following sections:
- What is healthcare professional insurance?
- What is covered by healthcare professional insurance?
- Do I need healthcare professional insurance?
- How much cover do I need?
- How much does healthcare professional insurance cost?
- How to find a healthcare professional insurance provider
- Final thoughts & FAQs.
What is healthcare professional insurance?
Healthcare professional insurance is an insurance policy designed for people in the healthcare industry, including nurses, technicians, carers and therapists. It’s an all-encompassing insurance policy, protecting these occupations financially against a range of high-risk liabilities that come with providing healthcare services, typically including medical malpractice, professional indemnity and public liability as the three main areas of cover.
If a doctor gives an incorrect diagnosis, a nurse administers the wrong drug, or a physiotherapist advises the wrong exercises, these mistakes could worsen a patient’s condition. If the patient or a member of their family sues for these errors and oversights, you may have to foot the bill for expensive legal proceedings, covering the costs for your legal fees and theirs, a hefty compensation payout and perhaps investigation from a regulatory body. Healthcare professional insurance can cover the costs of these claims, including settlements.
Healthcare professional insurance is sometimes known by different names in the UK, including variations of medical indemnity insurance or healthcare indemnity insurance. Sometimes, medical malpractice cover is available as a standalone policy, which you can take out at the same time as separate professional indemnity and public liability policies.
What is covered by healthcare professional insurance?
Healthcare professional insurance typically provides cover for a wide variety of liability claims relating to the work of caregivers and medical practitioners including medical malpractice claims, professional indemnity claims and public liability claims. Some policies may not consist of all three of these areas or may include other areas of cover, such as legal protection. The types of claims typically covered by each branch of cover are shown below.
This type of protection is designed explicitly for those who provide medical treatment or medical advice to their patients as part of their job role. Administering drugs, offering health advice or providing other medical treatment can lead to claims of wrongdoing or medical negligence if the patient does not see the expected outcome, or if they suffer an injury or illness as a result of your work. Examples include:
- oversights such as premature discharge from hospital or delayed patient referral
- poor advice
- claims of negligence by act or omission: instances of making a mistake, or failing to do something you should have, causing the treatment to fall below the expected standard of practice in the medical community resulting in injury or death to the patient
- claims of dishonesty.
When somebody brings a claim of this nature against a healthcare professional, medical malpractice insurance can typically cover:
- the defence costs and legal fees of the insured
- compensation payouts and settlement fees
- the legal expenses of the claimant, if their case is successful.
Professional indemnity insurance is an essential type of policy for almost any profession giving advice or providing a service. It covers claims for financial loss caused by errors or omissions in the services you provide. It’s vital for medical practitioners, too, as mistakes, oversights or negligence resulting in financial loss typically does not have cover under medical malpractice cover. Claims of financial loss brought against medical professionals might include:
- poor treatment advice leading to slower recovery, losing the patient more earnings
- misdiagnosis resulting in the patient purchasing redundant medicines and treatments.
Public liability insurance
This type of cover is relevant to anybody who encounters the public as part of their job. Those working in the healthcare sector come into frequent contact with members of the public, including those who may be particularly vulnerable. Public liability can protect healthcare professionals from compensation claims if they accidentally cause injury or illness to a third party, or damage to their property while carrying out their daily work activities.
These claims do not arise directly from the professional services provided but are typically accidental byproducts of the work carried out. Claims might include:
- an elderly patient tripping over your work bag and suffering an injury
- a postal worker’s delivery van sustaining damage at your practice when loose signage falls onto their vehicle
- a child falling sick after taking a sweet from you after their dental appointment.
Legal protection insurance
Some packaged healthcare policies may also include legal protection insurance. This kind of cover ensures that those working in the sector can afford legal defence and other legal expenses for claims brought by patients or their families. It can also cover your costs if you find yourself under investigation from one of the regulatory bodies in the industry, such as the General Medical Council or the Royal College of Nursing.
Are there any key exclusions?
The scope of coverage of your policy depends largely on the types of feature you choose to add, and the insurer you choose. However, there are several exclusions common to almost all plans:
- criminal acts
- sexual misconduct
Do I need healthcare professional insurance?
Most healthcare professional insurance policies in the UK are designed for self-employed medical or healthcare specialists providing treatment, care or medical advice to patients. This type of policy can be relevant to a vast range of occupations, including, but not limited to:
- dental nurses
Healthcare professional insurance is an essential consideration for anybody working in a role in the healthcare sector, who treats, cares for or gives advice to patients. It’s particularly relevant to self-employed professionals, who may not have cover from their employer. If you are employed full-time by the NHS or a private service provider, be sure to check the level of cover they can provide, as you may want to top up your coverage. Healthcare professional insurance can cover those working in a broad range of private and NHS services, including:
- medical universities
- out-of-hours services
- NHS 111 service
- fertility clinics
- mental health units.
If you’re unsure whether you need healthcare professional insurance, it’s worth estimating the expenses you might face if something went wrong. Claims related to damage to a person’s health, or even loss of life, typically engender the highest compensation settlements.
You would need to factor in costly legal fees for yourself and the patient, should their claim be successful, as well as compensation payouts. Add to this any loss of earnings you may suffer due to court attendance, and the cost of any investigations by medical boards triggered by the claim. For many people, even a dropped case could cause bankruptcy, making insurance a vital investment.
How much cover do I need?
The level of cover relevant to you depends on the types of services you provide. Many policies include medical malpractice, professional indemnity and public liability cover. However, if a large portion of your work involves providing medical advice online, you may want to consider cyber cover to protect you against claims relating to the mishandling of sensitive customer data.
Typically, indemnity limits range from £500,000 to £10 million, depending on the features of cover you add to your policy and the job role you undertake. It’s also worth noting that independent professionals may be contractually obliged to have a minimum level of cover to work with specific clients, such as the NHS, so be sure to consult your client contracts before taking out cover.
How much does healthcare professional insurance cost?
Healthcare professional insurance is one of the more expensive insurance solutions on the market, as it covers some of the most serious liability claims. That said, the price of healthcare professional insurance varies significantly, according to multiple factors:
- your specific job role. For example, the work of a heart surgeon carries a much higher risk than a nurse taking daily measurements, such as blood pressure.
- how frequently you have contact with patients
- the location of your practice
- the limit of indemnity you choose
- the number of cover features you add to your policy.
How to find a healthcare professional insurance provider
Healthcare professional insurance is a highly specialist product. It’s known to be expensive, and it can be challenging to find. There are three ways you can go about finding an insurance supplier.
Approaching insurers directly
Commercial insurance providers commonly offer bespoke policy packages tailored to different professions, many of which include a specialist product or package for those in the healthcare sector. Most suppliers provide details of their products on their website, where you can find key policy benefits and exclusions, and generate an online quote.
Going through a broker
Healthcare professional insurance is a complex product. No two professionals in the healthcare industry face the same risks, and it can be hard to determine a suitable level of cover and indemnity limit on your own. Brokers are experts who are familiar with the risks you might face in your industry, and who can find you appropriate cover to cater to your bespoke risk profile.
There are also many specialist medical insurance brokers on the market, who have industry-specific expertise allowing them to make better-informed recommendations. Brokers also often have access to exclusive insurance products featuring more extensive coverage for more competitive prices.
A helpful starting point for any insurance market research is a comparison website. Here, you can search for a particular insurance product and view solutions from various providers in one place, allowing for easy like-for-like comparison on multiple products. You can filter your search results according to specific criteria to narrow down your search.
Final thoughts & FAQs
Working to improve the health and lives of others is a rewarding and respected career choice, but one that comes with enormous amounts of responsibility. Anybody offering advice or services runs the risk of having claims of financial loss brought against them due to their negligence or wrongdoing. But for those in the healthcare sector, mistakes or oversights can have far worse consequences than money lost. Errors that negatively impact somebody’s health can have serious emotional, financial and legal ramifications for those involved.
Healthcare professional insurance can protect caregivers and healthcare service providers financially for claims of negligence, malpractice, oversights and underperformance. Not only is it a worthwhile consideration for anyone in the industry, but it may be essential for working with individual clients.
Still have questions on healthcare professional insurance? Check out answers to common queries, below.
Does a healthcare professional insurance policy cover my past work?
You can either arrange a policy on a claims-made or claims-occurring basis. Typically, a claims-made policy can cover you for any lawsuit brought against you within your current policy term, even if the incident itself occurred before you had cover. In the case of a claims-occurring policy, you would have to seek cover from the provider with which you had insurance at the time the incident took place.
Some insurers may only cover past work if you have had continuous coverage prior to your current policy, without any gaps. It’s best to speak to your insurance supplier for advice on what they can and cannot cover.