The Dentist Magazine.

Dentists advised to check the small print

Published: 28/07/2017

The BDA has warned dentists to check the small print on their indemnity policies to ensure they are appropriately covered.

The warning follows the latest GDC registrants’ newsletter which highlights a case where the adequacy of the registrant’s indemnity provision was considered.

The policy contained some exclusions relating to the transmission of blood-borne diseases that led the panel to conclude that the policy did not fulfil Standard 1.8 within the GDC Standards for the Dental Team: “You must have appropriate arrangements in place for patients to seek compensation if they suffer harm.”

The GDC is therefore encouraging registrants to read the small print within their policies and decide whether they are appropriately covered. The BDA is also advising practitioners to look carefully at wider areas of exclusion or the conditions of cover and question the true impact of the conditions and exclusions.

Peter Ward, chief executive of the BDA, said,“This is a call to action to all dentists - review your indemnity arrangements. Look through the small print and check out the conditions and restrictions, and ask your insurer what they mean and what the expectations are upon you. 

“We also call on all providers of cover. Tell us what your exclusions are, when they would apply and what the consequences would be to those who entered into these agreements in good faith.

“The dental profession and providers need a real debate about indemnity. At a time when fees are rising, many may be searching for a better deal. But a cheaper option with holes in it is not a real option at all when your professional registration is at risk if it goes wrong.”

Responding to the GDC announcement, Aubrey Craig, head of the dental division at MDDUS, said, “It is imperative that patients have access to redress when things go wrong. For patients and dentists to be adequately protected, occurrence-based cover that has no time-limit or cap on liability and avoids the need for frantic search for expensive additional run-off cover at the point of retirement is by far the best deal – and the safest option.

“MDDUS is a mutual membership organisation. Unlike insurers, we’re not in it for the profit, we have no small print to hide behind and we provide greater protection than the commercial alternatives available.

“Our occurrence-based indemnity has no time limit or cost cap on liability. This means that we help members for any claim that arises, even if they have moved abroad, ceased clinical work, retired or are deceased when the claim or complaint arises. This has to be the safer option – for professionals and patients alike.

“Insurance products rarely do that. They usually only guarantee protection to dentists insured both when the incident occurred and when the claim is made. The crucial importance of this lies in the fact that claims are often made several months or even years after the events that give rise to the claim.

“Claims-made insurance products don’t help in those circumstances. Claims from the past may have to be covered by the payment of an additional premium or run-off cover. This is in effect a ‘hidden’ cost and risk of insurance – and both costs and risks can be enormous.”