Medical Defence Cover

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Summary of Article

All doctors practising in the UK must take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover for their patient’s interests as well as their own.

This cover is important because the NHS does not cover direct patient complaints, trust disciplinary hearings, GMC hearings, criminal investigations, private patients and some coroner inquests.

There are two types of medical cover, however, medical indemnity insurance is compulsory:

  1. Medical indemnity insurance: the negligence claim will be covered if the cover was in place when the incident occurred, rather than when the claim is made.
  2. Medical Insurance: You are only covered whilst the policy is in place or for a defined period after.

What is a Medical Defence Organisation?

Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) are mutual non-profit organisations owned by their members. The primary purpose of MDOs is to indemnify doctors for incidents arising from their clinical care of patients and provide their members with 24-hour access to advice on medico-legal issues arising from clinical practice. Please note that MDO’s offer indemnity and not insurance.

The three MDOs are the Medical Defence Union (MDU), Medical Protection Society (MPS) and Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). Before choosing which union to join you should carefully consider each of the options.

Useful Tips when finding cover

The GMC requires you to have insurance that covers at least £10 million.

Check the policy before purchase as some insurance companies may limit the level of cover

When taking out your insurance ensure to ask three key questions:

  1. Will it cover me for criminal investigations?
  2. Will it cover me for GMC Investigations?
  3. How long is the run-off period?

Are there alternatives to Medical Defence Organisations?

Alternatively to Medical Defence Organisations, there are a few providers in the private insurance market and premiums may be similar or higher than subscriptions charged by the MDOs.

How much is a membership with a MDU?

The membership price differs depending on the type of work you do and the amount. Follow this link for more information.

Please note that this article is just a guide, for full advice please contact the Medical Defence Union.


Full Article

Medical Defence Cover

It is a GMC requirement that all doctors practising in the UK “must take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover for any part of your practice not covered by an employer’s indemnity scheme, in your patients’ interests as well as your own”.

It is fundamental for you to be a member of a Medical Defence Organisation (MDO) with indemnity insurance because the NHS will only cover you for NHS clinical work. The NHS does not cover patient complaints against a doctor, trust disciplinary hearings, GMC hearings, criminal investigations, private patients, and some coroner inquests.

Research shows that UK doctors make on estimate 850,000 medical errors a year and thus without membership of a medical defence organisation your career prospects and financial security could be at risk.

What happens if I am investigated?

-Loss of earnings
-Suspension from work
-Impact on professional standing
-Intrusion of privacy
-Financial hardship

If a claim is made against you and a GMC investigation starts it can cost more than £50,000 in solicitors’, barristers’, expert witness and other fees to appear before the GMC, therefore, it is a requirement from the GMC that you are covered for the work you do.

Types of Medical Cover

  1. Medical indemnity insurance works on the basis that the negligence claim will be covered if the cover was in place when the incident occurred, rather than when the claim is made.
  2. Alternatively, medical insurance means you are only covered whilst the policy is in place or for a defined period after.

Any insurance arrangement needs to ensure cover is provided for any incidents, no matter how long after the incident the claim arises (run-offs).

In addition, you should note that there can often be a delay in a claim arising especially in child cases where it can be delayed for up to twenty years.

What Medical Defence Organisation should I use?

Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) are mutual non-profit organisations owned by their members. The primary purpose of MDOs is to indemnify doctors for incidents arising from their clinical care of patients and provide their members with 24-hour access to advice on medico-legal issues arising from clinical practice. Please note that MDO’s offer indemnity and not insurance.

The three MDOs are the Medical Defence Union (MDU), Medical Protection Society (MPS) and Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). Before choosing which union to join you should carefully consider each of the options.

The three MDOs are mutual organisations which means that they are owned by their members and all the income generated by subscription is held in the mutual fund to defend members and offer other benefits. The unions solely exist for the benefit of their members and no dividends are paid to shareholders.

Useful Tips when finding cover

The GMC requires you to have insurance that covers at least £10 million.

Check the policy before purchase as some insurance companies may limit the level of cover

When taking out your insurance ensure to ask three key questions:

  1. Will it cover me for criminal investigations?
  2. Will it cover me for GMC Investigations?
  3. How long is the run-off period?

Are there alternatives to Medical Defence Unions?

Alternatively to Medical Defence Organisations, there are a few providers in the private insurance market and premiums may be similar or higher than subscriptions charged by the MDOs. These providers can be found on the internet or ask your NHS colleagues for advice.

How much is a membership with the MDU?

The membership price differs depending on the type of work you do and the amount. Follow this link for more information.


Please note that this article is just a guide, for full advice please contact the Medical Defence Union.


If you are an IMG who wants to relocate the UK and work for the NHS then get in contact with us by sending your CV to apply@bdiresourcing.com and one of our specialist advisors will provide you with tailored advice on your relocation.


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What should I expect on my first day / week / month?

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