Professional Indemnity

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2006 Health Care Service Group Conference
22 April 2006

Conference notes the following:

·That all staff working in the NHS, including Agency Staff, are covered by NHS Indemnity. This means that NHS bodies are vicariously liable for the negligent acts and omissions of their employees and should have arrangements for meeting this liability. Under Common Law all employers, including voluntary organisations, are vicariously liable for the actions of their staff. UNISON continues to provide Professional Indemnity cover for its health care members, both inside and outside the NHS. It is not acceptable for employers to require employees as part of their job offer to have sufficient indemnity in place, nor to require them to be a member of a particular organisation as part of their contractual obligations for indemnity purposes.

·The dangers of the growth of the litigious culture within the NHS not only causes unnecessary anxiety for its employees, but also hampers efforts by the NHS to improve patient safety.

·The dangers of the NHS going down the path of health care in the United States, where staff are not only afraid of owning up to mistakes through fear of suspension or other disciplinary action, but also of being sued.

Conference confirms UNISON’s support for the work of the National Patient Safety Agency in its aims to move the NHS away from a culture where staff are afraid to report incidents for fear of suspension and other recriminations, to an open culture where staff feel free to report incidents, and share information. That way the NHS can learn from its mistakes and reduce the number of incidents resulting in suspensions.

Conference however recognises the concerns of its members in the erosion of NHS Indemnity caused by the contracting out, and privatisation of NHS Services. Our membership base is constantly changing, and groups of members are being transferred to the private and voluntary sector, social services and other bodies. Some irresponsible private sector employers refuse to make the necessary arrangements to meet their liabilities.

Conference calls on the Health Group Executive to:

1.Put pressure on the Department of Health to:

(a)Reconfirm its commitment to provide NHS Indemnity to all NHS Workers and ensure that its staff can continue to perform their duties without the risk of being sued.

(b)Reverse the policy of contracting out and privatising its services.

(c) Where services have been contracted out, for employers to demonstrate they have sufficient cover to fully indemnify the actions of all their staff.

2.Seek formal discussions with other trade unions; to identify ways of developing consistent indemnity policies, but also seek to identify if collaborative policy negotiations could prove most cost effective and provide effective coverage.