Navigating professional protection options for your dental work becomes clearer this month [February 12] when new guidance from the General Dental Council takes effect.
The guidance, which was published in a GDC report late last year, follows an extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders including Dental Protection.
It proposes a checklist of questions that dental professionals should ask when deciding which type of protection they need to safeguard their patients, their professional roles, and their reputation (see table 1).
Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said he was pleased to see that a number of suggestions made in Dental Protection’s response to the draft guidance, had been incorporated in the final document.
“It is particularly welcome that the checklist of questions highlights the importance of having protection against a GDC fitness to practise investigation,” he said.
“The GDC’s statistics show that those who have legal representation during a hearing are much less likely to be erased or suspended from the register. We also know that regulatory investigations have a significant toll on wellbeing, and this must be all the more challenging when you face them alone. Having expert support and legal advice is incredibly important but it is not included as standard by all indemnity and insurance providers .”
The guidance stresses the legal obligation for all dental professionals to have appropriate indemnity or insurance cover in place before they start practising. This is to ensure that patients can obtain compensation if something goes wrong, and must be declared to the GDC on registration.
The market for professional indemnity has expanded significantly in recent years, resulting in a complicated range of options. These include:
- Personal protection – available from indemnifiers such as Dental Protection, insurance providers and some professional associations. This may be:
- Occurrence based – founded on your relationship with the provider at the time when the event occurred.
- Claims-made – which only cover claims that arise when the policy is active.
- Employer-based schemes – this is likely to be limited to specific roles. You need to make sure you are covered for all the other work that you do, the locations where you will be, and the hours that you work.
- NHS or so-called ‘Crown indemnity’ – for some areas of practice, such as in a secondary care hospital settings, work that you do under the terms of the NHS or HSC Northern Ireland will be covered by a clinical negligence scheme.
Most employer-based schemes and NHS indemnity only provide protection against claims. This satisfies the requirement to ensure patients treated in these settings are protected but does not include any additional protection for a dental professional, for instance in the event of a GDC investigation.
“There are a range of different indemnity and insurance options available and this updated guidance will help dental professionals ask the right questions when making a decision about what protection is most appropriate for them,” said Dr Rattan.
Will this product ensure that I can meet any liabilities to patients following a successful claim?
If not, what alternative or additional products might I need to meet my obligations to patients?
When we assist you with a claim, we help take the stress away from you by managing the claim on your behalf. We will engage with you, provide support, and keep you updated throughout the claims journey. We can take care of all legal costs and compensation payments, relieving you of the pressure of a claim from the day you call to notify us. We work with you to ensure the best outcome for you, the membership, and the patient/claimant. There is no financial limit or cap on the level of assistance provided.
Will this product cover me for all the tasks that I do, the locations where I work and the hours I work?
Your membership is tailored to you – your working hours, your types of work, and different work locations. You can update your details any time to ensure you stay protected for the work you do.
As an international organisation, we can also offer membership in other countries around the world.
If you are considering moving internationally please get in contact with us by emailing [email protected] to see if we can move you to an indemnity product in your new country.
What are the financial or other limits of this product?
Our discretionary protection means the indemnity we can provide isn’t restricted by financial caps, contractual terms, or limits. As part of the MPS group, we have the strongest mutual fund of any UK dental defence organisation, giving you support you can depend on.
Is the level of financial cover sufficient in relation to the risks related to my individual professional practice?
We have no financial caps or limits on the indemnity we can provide.
Is the product occurrence-based or claims-made cover? If a claim is made after the policy has expired, will the patient still be able to receive compensation if the claim is successful?
Your membership with Dental Protection provides occurrence-based discretionary indemnity. This allows you to request assistance for incidents that arise (or ‘occur’) at any time during your membership - irrespective of when the assistance is needed, or a complaint or claim arises. This could be years after the event - even during a career break or after membership has ended. This means you can request our assistance throughout your career and beyond.
What assistance is provided in disciplinary or fitness to practise proceedings or other non-claims matters?
Being investigated by the regulator can be one of the most daunting experiences of a dental professional’s career. Should you find yourself in this situation, we can be by your side every step of the way. We regularly defend members on a wide range of matters and are one of the few providers to allow members to request assistance for fitness-to-practise investigations relating to personal conduct.
We can also provide advice and legal representation for other non-claims matters such as disciplinaries, inquests, patient complaints and unwanted media attention.
Does the product give me peace of mind that my personal financial liability is protected?
When managing a claim on your behalf, we can take care of all legal costs and compensation payments, relieving you of the pressure from the day you call to notify us. There is no financial limit or cap on the level of assistance provided.
What terms and conditions must be adhered to? Am I confident that I can and will comply with these?
The indemnity we offer to individual dentists is based on the principle of discretion. This means that we have the flexibility to provide assistance where a tightly-worded insurance contract may preclude help. It also means we can offer assistance in unusual circumstances or where a new problem appears. In place of terms, you have the Memorandum and Articles of Association as your agreement with us.
Any other limitations are confirmed in your membership documents.
What do I do if my circumstances change (for example, changes to my scope of practice, taking on new tasks, change in working hours, change to a non-clinical role)?
As you move through your career, your protection moves with you. You can update your membership at any time if your circumstances change.
Does the provider offer support and advice services, including legal advice and wellbeing support, as part of this cover?
There’s never been a more challenging time to practise dentistry. Our advice service is there to help with queries and dentolegal emergencies 24/7, 365 days a year. Our dedicated team includes legal experts and case managers as well as dentolegal consultants; experienced dentists who understand the challenges you face. All Dental Protection members can access our exclusive wellbeing service, offering a range of resources to help you reduce stress, sleep better and avoid burnout. Should you need it, this also includes access to confidential counselling via our trusted partners, ICAS.
If I am responsible for students or trainees, will this product provide me with appropriate cover?
Some memberships will automatically include this work. Let us know if you are a carrying out any of these roles and we can check your membership to ensure you’re protected.
If I employ dental professionals or own a dental practice, does my policy cover any non-delegable duty of care or vicarious liability?
Practice principal members who own three or fewer non-incorporated practices have protection against vicarious liability (VL) and/or non-delegable duty of care (NDDC) claims included in their membership as standard. Those with more than three practices can apply for additional protection online.
If your business is incorporated, you can choose to apply for Company Protection; allowing you to request our assistance should a complaint or legal challenge be brought against your company.
You can find out more about the support we offer for vicarious liability at dentalprotection.org/vl.
Table 1 should make reassuring reading for all members of Dental Protection, with a comprehensive answer for each of the GDC’s questions.
In particular, it highlights that Dental Protection does not include financial caps and is occurrence based. It also includes wellbeing support and the right to request assistance with GDC investigations.
“I can confirm that members of Dental Protection do not have financial caps and that their protection is occurrence-based, said Dr Rattan. “This means they do not need to worry about the prospect of having to cover any costs that exceed a limit and that they will be protected long into the future without the need to purchase run-off or ‘tail’ cover when they end their policy, retire, or leave dentistry.”