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What does discretionary indemnity mean for you?

Post date: 05/07/2019 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 24/08/2020

We answer your common queries and bust some myths surrounding discretionary indemnity

The indemnity we offer to individual dentists is based on the principle of discretion. This means that we have the flexibility to provide assistance when a tightly-worded insurance contract may preclude help. With experienced dentolegal consultants and specialist solicitors at the core of our team, we can use our judgement and insight to help members.

With more choice in professional protection than ever before, you need an organisation that goes further than anyone else to protect you and your interests, and we understand that you might have questions about your indemnity. Here, we answer some of the most common queries on what discretion means in practice.

Why is the flexibility of discretionary indemnity so important?

Clinical negligence is a specialist area of expertise and is very different to areas covered by traditional forms of insurance, such as car or household cover. It can be - and often is - several years between an incident taking place and the resulting claim emerging.

Dentistry is continually changing and is rarely straightforward; new challenges and issues constantly arise, some of which were inconceivable just a few years ago. Discretion means we can offer help in unusual circumstances or where a new problem appears. It's why we use people, not contracts to make these decisions.

Our claims management team are based in-house, and work for you - which means that you benefit from the expertise and combined wisdom of your peers: dentists and legal experts who know the healthcare system and your specific challenges.

We are different in that we treat every case on its individual merit, and, because we are a discretionary organisation, our starting point is always 'how can we help?'

Why should I pay for membership when there's no formal guarantee of assistance?

Our discretionary approach to providing assistance isn't about being able to say no, it's about having the flexibility to ask ourselves, 'how can we help?'

Last year we helped on 6,625 cases involving our UK dental members, including claims, complaints and regulatory matters. We help thousands of members every year with problems that arise from their professional practice and provide assistance with the vast majority of the cases. Only in very exceptional circumstances would we decline - for example, if a member: was not in membership when the adverse incident occurred, or had deliberately under-paid their subscription.

This is no difference from an insurance company declining to assist in such circumstances.

Being discretionary doesn't mean there are no rules. We cannot and would not decline to assist you just because we felt like it - you have the Memorandum and Articles of Association as your agreement with us.

If I'm sued for a large sum, I've heard Dental Protection could turn their backs on me and refuse to help, as there's no written agreement to do so - is that right?

No - this is simply not true. We take our responsibilities to members extremely seriously and have never used discretion capriciously. We have never declined to assist a member purely because of cost implications. In fact there are no caps or limits on the indemnity we provide to individual UK dental members.

By the end of 2018, the highest value claim Dental Protection had settled on behalf of a UK member was over £812,000, and we were assisting on individual cases each valued between £280,000 and £1 million.

What does the UK Government Consultation mean for discretionary models of indemnity?

The UK Government has finished consulting on proposals that would reform how general dental practitioners and other healthcare professionals purchase their indemnity.

All of the main UK defence organisations and other organisations have responded formally to indicate that there is little evidence that patients are unable to access appropriate compensation under current arrangements, something which the Government itself acknowledges. Requiring dentists to hold insurance would mean that dentists also have to pay extra costs to protect themselves from claims, including insurance premium tax and other costs of regulation.

The Government's proposals would bring significant intended and unintended consequences for dentists which need to be worked through. We are working to help the Government understand these and we expect that if any changes were to be made they would be several years away. Regardless of what changes the Government introduces, Dental Protection will continue to offer the best possible support to members.

Do you have more questions about your protection? Email [email protected] or speak to a member of our friendly team on 0800 561 9000.

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