9 August 2011
Q. I work as an associate in two different practices; two days in one and three days in another. Very often the two different practice owners have to employ an agency nurse to assist me in the surgery. I have been a member of Dental Protection for five years and am concerned about the vicarious liability I might have if the agency nurse doesn't have the right sort of indemnity. Do I need to check this or should I rely on the practice-owners to do this? Neither of them have indemnity with Dental Protection as far as I am aware.
As a registered dentist in your own right, you have a duty to ensure firstly that any dental nurse with whom you work is registered with the GDC (i.e. don't just assume that the practice owner has done this). There are special arrangements if the dental nurse is undergoing a formal course of training leading to a qualification that is recognised for registration purposes. Secondly, you have a further duty to ensure that any such dental nurse has suitable indemnity arrangements in place, for any negligence claims that might be made against her.
Locum and/or agency nurses may well be employed by the agency rather than by the practice owner, and many agencies do not make any professional indemnity arrangements on behalf of the dental nurses on their books.
If the dental nurse is working with you and/or under your direction and supervision, then your own Dental Protection membership will cover your vicarious liability for the nurse's negligent acts and omissions. The GDC's current stance - while still somewhat vague - is that this would be sufficient professional indemnity for a dental nurse to have. The GDC's concern is that patients who have been avoidably harmed by negligent dental treatment, can be properly compensated where appropriate, and in the above situation this can be achieved through your membership of Dental Protection. As a dentist who understands the importance of indemnity you are also in a position to advise any dental nurse about the benefits of having indemnity in their own name to protect their registration.
A list of the most frequently asked questions and answers about indemnity for dental nurses is available here