Professional indemnity requirements

As a condition of your registration you are required to have a professional indemnity arrangement in place before you start to practise.

An indemnity arrangement may be:

  • an insurance policy
  • if you are employed, an arrangement made by your employer for the purposes of indemnifying you
  • an arrangement obtained through a professional body, trade union or defence organisation for the purposes of indemnifying you
  • a combination of these

You must make sure that the professional indemnity arrangement you have in place provides appropriate cover. This means that the cover needs to be appropriate to the nature and extent of the risks involved in your practice so that enough compensation will be paid if a successful claim is made against you. What is appropriate cover for you may depend on a combination of factors, including for example:

  • the practice area or areas you work in;
  • the services you provide to patients and the public; and
  • the risks involved with your practice.
  • What might be appropriate cover for one applicant or registrant may be inappropriate for another. You need to make sure that you consider the risks which may arise from your practice and make sure that you have a professional indemnity arrangement in place which provides cover which is appropriate to those risks

We cannot advise you about the level of cover that you will need. You are in the best position, getting advice as appropriate from your professional body, trade union, defence organisation or insurer, to make reasonable, informed decisions about the level of cover appropriate to you and your practice. You need to be able to justify your decisions.

It is a requirement under article 32 of the Pharmacy Order 2010 that practising pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have appropriate cover under an indemnity arrangement as a condition of registration with us. This is to make sure that, where a person has suffered harm through the negligence of a registrant, they will be able to receive any compensation and costs of litigation to which they are entitled following a successful claim.

We have produced the following FAQs on indemnity arrangements to help explain what the revised indemnity requirements mean for you.

General

What do the requirements mean for me?

What information is needed

Special circumstances


General

Under article 32 of the Pharmacy Order 2010, an indemnity arrangement may be:

  • an insurance policy
  • if you are employed, an arrangement made by your employer for the purposes of indemnifying you
  • an arrangement obtained through a professional body, trade union or defence organisation for the purposes of indemnifying you, or
  • a combination of these.

A registrant who practises as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician must have an indemnity arrangement in force that provides appropriate cover, as a condition of their registration with us.

The requirement for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to have appropriate indemnity cover is not new. Registrants were already required by law to have appropriate indemnity cover in force.

The main difference that current registrants will notice is the requirement to make a declaration when applying to renew your registration, confirming that you understand that you cannot practise without having appropriate indemnity cover in place and that you will inform us within seven days if you cease to have such cover.

We may ask some registrants for further information about their indemnity arrangements. Each registrant will need to know the details of their indemnity arrangements and be able to provide these to the GPhC if requested.

It means cover against liabilities that may be incurred in practising as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. The cover must be appropriate, taking into account the nature and extent of the risks associated with your practice. The level of cover should be sufficient to meet any liabilities that may be incurred if a successful claim is made against you, for example the costs of litigation and any compensation awarded. The cover must be in force by the time you begin to practise.

It is each registrant’s responsibility to ensure that they have appropriate indemnity arrangements for all aspects of their practice. Given the range of pharmacy practice, we do not propose to offer guidance about what would be considered adequate scope and funding of indemnity cover. These are both aspects that each registrant must consider. If you are unsure, you should check with your employer or other indemnity provider, such as an insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation.

Practising as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician is defined in the Pharmacy Order 2010 (article 3(2)) as being when ‘acting in the capacity of or purporting to be a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, that person undertakes any work or gives any advice in relation to the preparation, assembly, dispensing, sale, supply or use of medicines, the science of medicines, the practice of pharmacy or the provision of healthcare’.

What do the requirements mean for me?

Being covered by an employer’s indemnity arrangements does not exempt you from the requirement to have appropriate indemnity cover but it may well mean that you do not need to purchase additional cover. If your employer has made indemnity arrangements which provide appropriate cover in respect of liabilities that may be incurred in your scope of practice, that should be sufficient. However, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are appropriately indemnified under your employer’s cover.

If you work for more than one employer, you need to make sure that you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place for each area of your practice.

If you are unsure you should check what is covered under your employer’s indemnity arrangements. You may also want to seek advice from an indemnity provider to help you decide whether to arrange any personal indemnity cover in addition to your employer’s arrangements. An employer’s arrangement will only provide cover for activities performed by an employee as part of their duties during that employment.

If you are self-employed you need to make sure that you have put in place your own arrangements for appropriate indemnity cover. You should make sure that you understand the terms of your indemnity policy and make a full declaration of all material facts and relevant information, including your full scope of practice, to your indemnity provider. 

If you undertake a combination of employed and self-employed work, you need to make sure that you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place for each area of your practice.

We recognise that an applicant for registration may not have yet secured employment or have made a separate indemnity arrangement. You will still be able to apply for registration.  We will ask you to declare that you understand that you cannot practise unless you have appropriate indemnity cover in place and that you will inform us within seven days if you cease to have such cover. If you do not complete the declarations you will be unable to register with us.

The requirement to have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place applies to all registrants and all aspects of practice. If you are employed, your employer may well have made indemnity arrangements which will provide appropriate cover for the risks associated with the activities you carry out as part of your job. However, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are appropriately indemnified under your employer’s cover.

If you are self-employed and in non-clinical practice, you should contact your insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation for specialist advice on ensuring adequate and appropriate indemnity cover for your practice.

If your practice changes, for example because you take on new responsibilities, or begin to specialise, or move into management, education or research, you may need to review the level of cover provided by your indemnity arrangements or make new arrangements. You should review your indemnity arrangements whenever you change your role or take on a new type of work, to ensure that you continue to have appropriate cover.  For example, if you obtain an annotation to your registration as a prescriber, you should check that your indemnity arrangements cover this area of practice.

Under the Standards for registered pharmacies a pharmacy owner must ensure they have appropriate indemnity or insurance arrangements in place for the pharmacy services provided at or from their registered pharmacy or any associated premises. The cover must be appropriate, taking into account the nature and extent of the risks associated with the services provided. If, for example, a pharmacy sells medicines online to patients who live outside Great Britain, the owner must make sure that they have informed their indemnity provider that this is part of the pharmacy’s service provision and may need to provide evidence that their service complies with relevant guidance, import and export requirements, and legislation in the country where the medicines will be received by the patient.  The level of cover should be sufficient to meet any liabilities that may be incurred if a successful claim is made against you, for example the costs of litigation and any compensation awarded.

An employed registrant, whether they work for a pharmacy owner or another employer, should consider whether any indemnity arrangement provided by their employer is sufficient for them or whether they need to make any additional arrangements. Registrants will need information about any indemnity arrangement provided by an employer so that they can make an informed decision about whether they need to make any additional arrangements to ensure appropriate and adequate cover for all aspects of their practice. 

If an employed registrant is asked to provide details of their indemnity cover to the GPhC, they will need to ask their employer for the details of the employer’s indemnity arrangements so that they can submit this to the GPhC, along with a letter from the employer to confirm that they are covered by the policy.

What information is needed

We will provide full information about what you would need to send us if we contact you for further information. Any evidence you provide will need to relate to the date or dates stated in the notice.  You can send us copies of certificates or scanned copies of certificates. If you work solely for an NHS employer, we will accept a letter from the NHS Human Resources department confirming your employment status and the fact you are therefore covered by their indemnity arrangements for work carried out as part of your NHS employment.

You must inform us within seven days if you cease to have indemnity arrangements in place that provide appropriate cover.

You do not need to inform us about routine changes in indemnity cover such as a change of provider.

When you apply to renew your registration, we ask you to make a number of self-declarations. These will now include declaring that you understand that you cannot practise unless you have appropriate indemnity cover in place and that you will inform us within seven days if you cease to have such cover. If you do not complete the declarations you will be unable to renew your registration and will be removed from the register.

Similar declarations will be required from applicants for registration or for restoration to the register.

We would not request evidence of indemnity cover from registrants on a routine basis but we may seek such evidence, for example when a complaint has been made or when there are concerns that appropriate cover may not be in place.

There will be no requirement to provide evidence of indemnity cover as part of the standard renewal process. The renewal process would require a self-declaration. If we needed to seek evidence of indemnity cover from a registrant during their renewal period (for example, because concerns had been raised that they did not have cover in place), the notice requesting this information would be sent separately from the renewal notice and would state the deadline for providing this information.

Special circumstances

If you are registered but not practising, you must still inform us within seven days of your indemnity cover ceasing.

If you are not practising at all for a period, for example because you are on a career break, maternity leave or between jobs, we would not require you to have indemnity cover during this period. You may want to consider whether you need to take out a run-off indemnity policy.  This would provide cover for any claims made relating to the work you did before you stopped practising. Your insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation is best placed to advise you about this.

Similarly, if you are working in a field unconnected with pharmacy and are not undertaking any work that could be considered to fall within the definition of ‘practising’ in the Pharmacy Order (article 3(2)), we would not require you to have indemnity arrangements in place. Practising is defined as being when ‘acting in the capacity of or purporting to be a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, that person undertakes any work or gives any advice in relation to the preparation, assembly, dispensing, sale, supply or use of medicines, the science of medicines, the practice of pharmacy or the provision of healthcare’. You may also want to consider whether you need to take out a run-off indemnity policy to provide cover for any claims made relating to the work you did before you stopped practising. Your insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation is best placed to advise you about this.

Whether you are not working at all or you are working in a field unconnected with pharmacy, you would need to ensure that you had appropriate indemnity arrangements in place before beginning to practise again. You would also need to continue to meet the CPD requirements while you are on the register. If you are not intending to practise for some time, you may want to consider applying for voluntary removal from the register and then applying for restoration before beginning to practise again.

The requirement to have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place applies to all registrants and all aspects of practice. If you practise your profession on a voluntary basis, the organisation you are working for may have made indemnity arrangements to provide appropriate cover for the risks associated with the activities you carry out for them, or you may already have personal indemnity arrangements that may cover your voluntary work. However, it is your responsibility to make sure that you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place for all aspects of your practice.

If you are unsure, you should check with the organisation for which you are volunteering or contact your insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation for advice.

If you are practising pharmacy outside Great Britain, you should ensure that you have appropriate indemnity cover in place for wherever you are practising and wherever a claim relating to your practice could be brought against you.

If you return to Great Britain, you would need to ensure you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place before resuming practice here.

We do not regard actions as a ‘Good Samaritan’ – someone who provides first aid or other emergency help when there is no obligation to do so – as professional practice for which you must have an indemnity arrangement.

Good neighbour acts, such as helping in your professional capacity in your local community or giving advice to friends or relatives, are less clear cut. Single, unpaid, acts are unlikely to be considered as practising as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician but repeated acts over a period, even if unpaid, may require appropriate indemnity cover. If you are concerned about any potential liabilities resulting from such acts, you should check with your insurer, trade union, professional body or defence organisation for advice on whether you have or need cover for such acts.

When you apply to register, restore or renew your registration you will be asked whether you have an indemnity arrangement in place and whether this is provided by

  • your employer
  • a personal arrangement with an indemnity/insurance provider
  • a combination of employer provided indemnity arrangement and a personal arrangement.

If in your application you indicate that you currently do not have any indemnity arrangements in place you will be asked to confirm that you understand that, upon entry in the register or renewal of your entry, you cannot practise as a pharmacist/pharmacy technician unless there is in force an indemnity arrangement which provides appropriate cover in relation to your scope of practice. 

In addition irrespective of whether you have or have not got indemnity arrangements in place at the time of registration or renewal you will also be required to confirm that you will inform the registrar in writing within 7 days if you cease to have appropriate indemnity arrangements in force and that you understand that your entry may be removed from the Register if you no longer have appropriate indemnity arrangements in force.