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Scottish contractors not covered by COVID-19 indemnity

A state-backed indemnity scheme covering NHS activities carried out as part of the response to the pandemic does not extend to pharmacies in Scotland.

  • The Department of Health and Social Care in England confirmed last week that the scheme covers community pharmacies
  • There is also indemnity cover for community pharmacies in Wales and Northern Ireland, C+D has learned

Sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which received royal assent on March 25, set out the details on indemnity for health service activity in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clinical negligence indemnity arrangements act as a “safety net where clinical negligence arising from the provision of such services is not already covered under a pre-existing indemnity arrangement”, according to an explanatory note published with the Coronavirus Bill on March 24.

The indemnity provides healthcare professionals with cover for the “care, treatment or diagnostic services provided under the arrangements for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic”, the explanatory note stated.

The Welsh government and the Department of Health (DH) in Northern Ireland have both told C+D that these arrangements cover community pharmacies in their countries.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Scottish government told C+D last week (May 7) that independent contractors, including community pharmacy contractors, “are not covered by the indemnity provisions” and should, therefore, arrange their own indemnity.

Covered if employed by health boards

“Workers are covered if they are employed or engaged by health boards while they are working for health boards”, the Scottish government spokesperson clarified.

“If they are working for independent contractors, they should either arrange their own indemnity or have it provided by the independent contractor”, they added.

The spokesperson reiterated the Scottish government’s pledge to “meet in full any necessary additional costs incurred by community pharmacies in supporting the NHS at this time”.

Matt Barclay, director of operations at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), told C+D last week (May 7) that most of the activities that are being carried out by pharmacies in Scotland would be covered by existing indemnity arrangements. Any COVID-specific activity would be raised by CPS with the Scottish government, he added.

A spokesperson for the DH in Northern Ireland told C+D last week (May 7) that “indemnification in response to COVID-19 came into force across Northern Ireland upon royal assent and includes community pharmacy”.

Arrangements in place

A spokesperson for the Welsh government told C+D yesterday (May 12) that arrangements are in place “for organisations or individuals undertaking NHS services to respond to coronavirus to be covered for clinical negligence in these circumstances”.

“This includes those working in community pharmacy delivering pharmaceutical services for the NHS,” they added.

A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Wales told C+D today that the negotiator is "pleased that the Welsh government has recognised in the unlikely event that during the COVID-19 outbreak community pharmacies have to provide services other than standard NHS pharmaceutical services, which might therefore not be covered by existing indemnity arrangements, they will be covered by state-backed indemnity arrangements".

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed that community pharmacies in England are covered by the state-backed clinical negligence indemnity for NHS activities related to the pandemic, and clarified that provisions have been made for this.

Both the National Pharmacy Association and the Pharmacists' Defence Association offer seperate indemnity cover for pharmacy professionals. They told C+D last week that they welcome the state-backed indemnity arrangements, which they expect will cover their insured for COVID-related activities.

What do you make of the indemnity arrangements?

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