Bill to set minimum indemnity cover for doctors

Move will allow public to seek redress in event of medical mishap, says Varadkar

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health: “It is good news for patients”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health: “It is good news for patients”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 22:05

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has published legislation that will make it a legal requirement for all medical practitioners to have a minimum level of indemnity cover.

Mr Varadkar said the move would allow members of the public to seek redress in the event of a medical mishap or negligence.

The Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014, published yesterday, places the onus on practitioners to ensure they have adequate cover, he said.

The announcement follows reports last month of consultants in private practice facing increases in their indemnity premiums of up to 50 per cent.

“At present there is no legal obligation on a medical practitioner to have adequate medical indemnity insurance cover,” Mr Varadkar said on the publication of the Bill.

“This legislation will address this deficit. It is good news for patients as the enactment of the legislation will mean that members of the public will be able to have redress in the event of a medical mishap or negligent care from a medical practitioner.”

Under the law, the Medical Council will seek proof of indemnity from practitioners on registration, and will have the power to impose sanctions on those who do not comply with the minimum requirement.

A statement from the Department of Health said the move should not require any higher payment than would be necessary for a normal and adequate policy.* The legislation will be initiated in the Seanad in the autumn.

Last July, it was revealed that the UK-based Medical Protection Society (MPS) would be contacting its Irish private consultant clients to tell them of rises in the cost of indemnity cover by as much as half the existing policy.

Such an increase would likely have the effect of threatening the financial viability of some practices while at the same time increasing the cost of care for patients.

Cost of claims According to MPS, the increase in subscription rates is due to a rise in the rate at which doctors are facing legal action and the subsequent cost of claims. It is unclear what effect the new legislation will have on existing


Expressing concerns at the increased prices revealed last month, Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association chief executive Martin Varley said it would result in “a growing number of patients seeking care in public hospitals at a time when these hospitals do not have the capacity to treat more patients due to a lack of frontline resources and an insufficient number of consultants.”

*This article was amended on August 2nd 2014