RCN Drops Indemnity Cover for Aesthetic Practice

Lorna Jackson
By Lorna Jackson

Lorna was Editor of Consulting Room (www.consultingroom.com), the UK's largest aesthetic information website, from 2003 to 2021.

At the beginning of February 2014, the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) announced some changes to their medical indemnity scheme for both employed and self-employed nurses which will take effect from 1st July 2014. The action announced by the RCN is to ensure that employers can no longer shift the costs of indemnity cover onto the RCN and will also see an end to cover for those self-employed nurses in aesthetic practice; due to the high claims risk in this area says the RCN.

The indemnity scheme provided by the RCN to its members is a contractual arrangement providing cover for clinical negligence claims. The RCN point out that it is not intended to replace or supplement the general cover arranged by employers for their staff, but it provides members with the assurance that when their employer’s cover isn’t available they may generally fall back on the RCN for assistance. According to them, some health care organisations have been trying to shift their costs onto the RCN, even insisting that their staff have personal indemnity cover.  They argue that this is unacceptable, because all employers are responsible for the actions of their staff; this isn’t something that happens in the NHS for example. They conclude that RCN members should not be subsidising employers, thus this practice is wrong and poses an unacceptable financial burden on RCN members by putting pressure on RCN subscription income.

The vast majority of RCN member nurses will not be affected by the proposed changes as they are already covered by their employer’s indemnity or insurance arrangements, but those nurses working in the aesthetic industry as self-employed individuals should take heed of this news.

The official statement from the RCN said;

“From 1st July 2014, work undertaken by employed RCN members is excluded from the scheme's coverage. This change will prevent employers moving the burden of risk onto their staff and the RCN, and will stop the college from inadvertently subsidising under-performing employers. The move will ensure that employers take responsibility for the environment of care, providing safe systems for its delivery.

While most self-employed members will remain covered by the RCN scheme, aesthetic practice will be excluded from 1st July. Self-employed members are advised to check the terms of the RCN scheme regularly and to ask for advice from RCN Direct, if they are unsure their practice is covered. Good Samaritan work will continue to be covered and the £3 million cover is still available for voluntary work and education placements.”

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said;

Most members won’t notice a change at all, but this ensures that the responsibility for claims rests with those who should be paying – namely the employer – so that we can focus on protecting, representing and supporting members in other work-related and professional legal areas. This means that neither our members nor the RCN will pay the price for underperforming employers.

On hearing the news, some nurses took to discussion forums to vent their disappointment at the news. Some were saddened that the RCN was abandoning them and that long term membership clearly meant nothing. Others were feeling let down and reconsidering their membership.  One nurse, an RCN member for 34 years noted that it was a shame that they had not been given an option to pay for the additional cover for RCN protection for aesthetic practices, but were instead just shown the door.

We spoke to independent insurance brokers to find out their view on the RCN’s announcement.

Janine Revill from Cosmetic Insure said;

In view of the recent announcement by the RCN concerning the provision of insurance to aesthetic practitioner nurses, Cosmetic Insure felt it appropriate just to reassure RCN members that we can provide a simple and cost effective solution.

 As all RCN members are aware, cosmetic work undertaken by them falls outside of their core nursing activities and would therefore be deemed as an ancillary activity to their main role. In spite of this, RCN members have previously relied on the discretionary indemnity scheme provided by the RCN to cover their legal liabilities in the event of causing pain/injury to a patient.

It has always been Cosmetic Insure’s recommendation that in this ever increasing litigious world, nurses should have their own specific insurance policy to cover all cosmetic treatments undertaken by them. An insurance policy provides certainty and clarity about what is covered to ensure that you are fully protected at the time of a claim. Cosmetic Insure would be more than happy to field any enquiries that RCN members may have regarding their requirements going forward.

Eddie Hooker from Hamilton Fraser said;

We understand that following the recent RCN announcement about forthcoming changes to their indemnity insurance, many cosmetic nurses will be concerned to ensure that they continue to be adequately protected.  In fact we have received many telephone calls from concerned nurses in the last two weeks, since the RCN notified its members. We have been able to help them to reassess their cover and give them peace of mind so they can continue to practice knowing they have full indemnity in place.

If you have been affected by the change in indemnity cover provided by the Royal College of Nursing, we have created a free helpline to offer you guidance and risk management for your business. Please call 0800 63 43 881 for further help.

Anyone concerned or with questions should contact the RCN Direct in the first instance. 

Rethinking Medical Aesthetics

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