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What does discretionary indemnity mean for you?

06 July 2020

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

The indemnity we offer to individual doctors 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 medicolegal 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. 

Medicine 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: doctors 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 support?' 


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 opened over 1,500 cases on behalf of our Ireland medical 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 underpaid their subscription. 

This is no different 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 Medical 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 Irish medical members. 

By the end of 2019, the highest value claim Medical Protection had settled on behalf of a Irish member was over €6.74 million, and we were assisting on individual cases each valued between €9 million and €13.4 million.** 

 

Do you have more questions about your protection? Email member.help@medicalprotection.org or speak to a member of our friendly team on 1800 561 9000. 

 

* Source: MPS data; 1 Jan – 31 Dec 2019 

** MPS data; medical claims reported by members in Ireland between 1 Jan 2010 and 31 Dec 2019