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Indemnity arrangements during COVID-19 Crisis – update 4

This statement explains the beneficial changes that have been made to your indemnity to support your practice during the pandemic.

Mon 23rd March 2020 The PDA

The COVID-19 crisis is changing the working patterns and activities of pharmacists in the healthcare profession. Pharmacists may be required to engage in activities that they have not been involved in previously, this may see them acting in a way that is technically outside of some regulatory standards and possibly the law. The PDA is in regular contact with the respective regulatory authorities, government agencies and NHS officials and it is clear that there will need to be a much more pragmatic approach taken.

The GPhC has helpfully made clear that pharmacists when given the choice of working strictly to the letter of the law or operating outside of these in the interests of patients, will be supported by the regulator.

Pharmacists, quite understandably are now calling the PDA in increasing numbers to describe specific unusual situations that they are just about to get involved in, such as calling patients at their homes as part of a CCG organised initiative, to notify them that they have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and providing the necessary counselling.

Alternatively, this could be a regular activity, but now having to be delivered in a sub-optimal way; such as providing a minor ailments service involving diagnosis over the telephone. There are many more examples demonstrating how pharmacists are now taking on much more and acting in a pragmatic way.

These are extraordinary times and what members want to know is whether their indemnity will cover them in such situations or not.

The PDA can assure pharmacists of two things;

1. Where pharmacists are putting the interests of patients first having undertaken a professional decision-making process, underwriters have agreed to extend cover to support pharmacists involved in activities that are beyond the normal scope of their work or when they work beyond the law or the professional regulations. This means that pharmacists can continue to rely on the PDAs professional indemnity scheme for compensation-related issues as well as its full support and representation in the event of any inquests, threatened sanctions or employer disciplinary matters being taken against them.

2. Additionally, in discussions with the government, we have been told that NHS Resolution will provide professional indemnity to support any necessary compensation payments for patients specifically for any errors that occur in those situations related to the treatment or diagnosis of COVID-19. These arrangements are contained in the Coronavirus Bill (Sections 10,11 and 12 for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), which is currently passing through Parliament and which is expected to become law later this week.

The extra-ordinary measures from the government are very welcome. However, whilst they would provide compensation payments for patients in the event of an error related specifically to the treatment or diagnosis of COVID, they would not provide indemnity support for pharmacists engaged in any non-COVID related activity. Neither will the government scheme provide any support for any associated inquests or employment, regulatory or criminal proceedings even though these may be related to COVID-19 treatment. As PDA membership will support members in all these eventualities, a combination of both PDA membership and the government safety net scheme should provide pharmacists with all the reassurance that they need.

In a practical sense, this means that rather than spend energy on trying to work out whether a specific activity is covered or not, pharmacists are urged to apply more generically the points above and concentrate all of their valuable efforts on helping out with the pandemic.

This is good news for pharmacists as hopefully, indemnity arrangements should not be a concern at this very difficult time.

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We want to keep you aware of matters important to your practice and employment and will send further updates on our discussions and any agreements that have been reached with the government and others. You can also get updates by following us on social media.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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