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Professional Indemnity Insurance – it’s not an option

Working as a locum brings many benefits: the chance to experience a variety of working environments, both geographically and in Practice size and types (Small Animal, Farm, etc.). It provides a wealth of experience in learning to dive into new and potentially challenging situations and adapt to different teams of people. The variety is great, the experience is invaluable, and the financial rewards are – well, rewarding! In addition, a spell of Locum work re-enforces your standing as a capable, responsible and independent professional. As such, your professional reputation should precede you. Part of your responsibility is to ensure you have the correct level of Professional Indemnity Insurance in place and at the correct level for the type of work you are undertaking.

Does the practice insurance cover locum staff?

Every veterinary practice has insurance to cover its permanent staff and their activities but does the policy cover locum staff? Many locums assume the vet Practice’s insurance extends to them as well. However, this is not always the case, and the level of cover may not extend to cover all of a Locum’s activities. Can you really risk a situation where, in the event of a claim, you do not have sufficient PII in place? Following such an event, would your reputation recover? Not having PII in place at best, suggests a laxness in standards, a cavalier attitude towards patients and, at worst, an uncaring disregard for professional responsibility.

RCVS stipulates PII for all registered practicing members

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons stipulates Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) for all registered practicing members, and with good reason. One of the worst scenarios imaginable for a veterinary surgeon is to inadvertently cause harm to or cause the death of an animal in their care. Leaving aside the emotional impact of such a scenario, if the worst did happen, the ensuing legal fees and compensation could have financially ruinous implications. PII covers legal representation, expenses and any compensation awarded to the claimant.

Direct financial implications aside, failure to hold PII can also result in suspension from the RCVS register.

A case in point

In April this year, charges of Disgraceful Conduct were made against an Essex-based vet when it was discovered she had failed to have PII in place for a one-year period between 2015 and 2016. The vet in question had a long and unblemished career, and there had been no loss of or harm to animals in her care in a manner such that would give rise to a claim. However, the RCVS determined holding PII is an essential component for maintaining public confidence in the veterinary profession and that by not having PII, the vet had put herself and the profession’s reputation at ‘plain risk’. As such, a decision of Disgraceful Conduct was handed down and the vet, a sole practitioner, was suspended from practising for two months.

The message from the RCVS is clear

Practising veterinary surgeons (and nurses) are required to hold PII. If you’re considering becoming a Locum, it is up to you to ensure you are covered in this respect, whether by the Practice’s own insurance or by taking out your own cover. Failure to do so is not an option should you wish to hold on to your license and your professional standing within your community!

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