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What does discretionary indemnity mean for you?

01 February 2022

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

The indemnity we offer to consultants is based on the principle of discretion. This means that we have the flexibility to provide assistance when a tightly-worded insurance contract may prevent help from being given. While the NHS indemnity scheme may cover you for NHS work, Medical Protection membership goes further and supports you with private practice work as well. With experienced medicolegal consultants and specialist solicitors at the heart 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 career, 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. 

The medical landscape 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 help?' 

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

Our discretionary approach isn't about being able to say no, it's about having the flexibility to ask ourselves what assistance we can provide. 

Last year, we helped on more than 8,900 cases* involving our medical members in the UK, 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 if they had deliberately misled us about the scope of their practice. 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 declined to assist a member purely because of cost implications. In fact, there are no caps or limits on the indemnity we provide to our individual medical members in the UK. 

In the last ten years, the highest value claim Medical Protection had settled on behalf of a UK member is over £7.4 million, and we are currently assisting on medical claims valued between £5.8m and £27.5m.**

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

*Medical Protection opened over 8,900 new cases in 2021 including claims and non-claim matters opened on behalf of members between 1 January and 31 December 2021

**Based on a view of the top 10 highest value open claims 4 Jan 22