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Why doctors need to join an MDO when they practise in the UK

Post date: 02/03/2023 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 02/03/2023

Managing risk will be an everyday part of your job as a doctor. With a medical defence organisation at their side, doctors make sure they are not alone when something goes wrong, explains Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection. 


Risk is something that every doctor faces, everyday. With medicine being a career that’s rewarding and challenging in equal measures, managing risk is simply part of the job. But no doctor needs to face that uncertainty alone.

Joining a medical defence organisation (MDO) is the best way to ensure that you have experts on your side if you encounter any problems throughout your career.

The role of MDOs

MDOs are mutual, non-profit making organisations which are owned by their members.

For an annual subscription fee, they provide you with access to legal advice and representation should a medicolegal problem arise from your clinical practice. This can include investigations, inquiries, complaints and criminal proceedings, as well as clinical negligence claims which fall outside the scope of NHS indemnity.


NHS indemnity only goes so far

If you are working in the NHS, you will usually receive NHS indemnity through your employer. However, this exists to ensure patients have access to compensation if clinical negligence has been proven. It’s not designed to protect the personal interests of you as a doctor. There are many situations where NHS indemnity does not apply, which is why most doctors consider it essential to arrange additional protection through an MDO.


The risks of not having MDO membership

As a doctor, it’s realistic to assume you will face some kind of medicolegal problem during your career. Without the support of an MDO you may have to deal with an adverse incident alone. This could put your career, reputation, financial security and even your liberty at risk.

Unfortunately, problems can happen to anyone. Even when no medical mistake has taken place, a complaint or allegation can still be made. For example, if an interaction is misconstrued or emotions are running high.

An investigation can lead to sanctions, suspension, loss of earnings and damage to your reputation. It can also be emotionally unsettling to go through this type of event without the support of compassionate and supportive experts.


Without an MDO, the cost can be high

While it is possible for you to deal with medicolegal situations yourself, this can be more stressful, costly and time-consuming. It can also result in a less favourable outcome. For example:

  • A positive outcome at a tribunal is much more likely if you have legal representation. It’s not uncommon to run into expenses up to and beyond £80,000 in solicitors’, barristers’, expert witness and other fees when appearing before the GMC.
  • Criminal cases involving doctors are often inherently complex. This is why specialist knowledge of medicine and criminal law is vital.
  • Doctors can be criticised and even prosecuted based on the evidence they give at a coroner’s inquest, so seeking advice is paramount, even if the situation appears straightforward.


MDOs offer more than just protection

MDOs are an invaluable source of personal medicolegal advice and support, in the good times and the bad. Take Medical Protection, for example.

The assistance we provide to more than 95,000 doctors working in the UK includes helping them respond to inquiries, investigations, complaints, claims, criminal and disciplinary proceedings. This can include drafting a response, compiling evidence and arranging legal representation, as well as explaining and supporting them through the process.

Your professional development also matters to us. We produce a wide range of resources to help doctors working at every level and speciality to become the best they can be, including advice sheets, case reports and our Casebook journal.

We’re also a leading provider of communication and risk management support amongst UK MDOs. As a member you can benefit from a wide range of courses, online learning modules and webinars to help you practise safely and avoid medicolegal problems from arising in the first place. All are provided to members at no extra cost.

Also, remember that you’ll need to apply at least four weeks before the date you start work.

You can explore all the benefits of Medical Protection membership here.

To discuss your indemnity and protection requirements and get a personal membership quote once you are ready start work in the UK, contact our IMG Relationship Manager.


About the author

Rob Hendry is Medical Director at Medical Protection, working with members around the world. He has a particular interest in supporting doctors who move between different countries and has championed Medical Protection’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

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