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GPs forced to ask practice nurses to purchase indemnity cover

GPs are being forced to make it a condition of employment that their practice nurses purchase indemnity insurance following the Royal College of Nursing’s controversial decision to stop providing cover for its members in primary care on cost grounds from this January.

GP leaders and medical defence bodies have warned the removal of cover for nurses will lead to sharp increases in practices’ defence premiums, which could place huge strains on GPs’ finances.

But in a briefing paper on the changes from the RCN, the College accuses GPs of implementing ‘unacceptable’ demands in response to the changes.

The paper says: ‘Some GP employers are making it a condition of employment that the nurse buys indemnity cover, or covers the cost of any change in premium for the practice. This is unacceptable.’

‘There is generally no legal obligation on an employed nurse to pay for personal cover in this way. It is poor employment practice (and almost unheard of in even the most commercial of employing organisations), and does little to enhance good working relationships.’

‘Most people would accept that the costs of running a business should be borne by the employing organisation, and not the staff employed in that organisation.’

The paper also says the RCN has received reports that ‘some GP employers have said that the nurse’s employment was conditional on their membership of the RCN and the cover the RCN indemnity scheme provided’.

It also criticises GPs for telling practice nurses they must have ‘personal’ cover, or in other cases that they need personal or separate cover if they are an independent prescriber.

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said it was up to the employing doctor to decide what is best for their practice.

He said: ‘I think it’s a decision for the employing doctor, there’s no obligation on a practice to employ a nurse on any particular terms or conditions.

He added: ‘I think they need to be mindful to be a good employer and to have a fair employment arrangement and that it’s up to the employing doctor and the employing practice.’