The truth behind discretionary dental indemnity: All you need to know


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Time to read: 5-min read

As a dentist, being cautious is crucial – whether that be performing a complicated root canal or extracting a wisdom tooth.

Put simply, without taking caution with your patients, mistakes can happen, lives can be impacted and reputations can be ruined.

Dental indemnity insurance is there to provide protection if these situations arise, offering a safety blanket against claims of alleged malpractice or negligence made against you or your practice.

However, since indemnity can come in various forms, it also pays to be cautious when taking it out to ensure you are actually protected in the way you think you are.

In this blog, we will be outlining some of the key truths behind discretionary indemnity in particular, starting by highlighting some of the key differences between this and contractual indemnity.

Contractual vs. discretionary: understanding the difference

Discretionary and contractual indemnity differ significantly in what they provide and the standard of protection they offer.

As such, it’s crucial to understand the type of protection you have – whether you have an indemnity policy in place already or are considering taking out or switching to a new policy.

What is discretionary dental indemnity?

Discretionary indemnity cover offers no guarantee that a claim will be met.

All Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) offer discretionary cover, which means that whether or not a claim is accepted is entirely at their discretion. In simple terms, they will choose whether or not to fight your corner in the event of a claim.

Discretionary cover is such that the Mutual has no contractual obligation to cover your defence costs (for GDC complaints and disciplinary hearings) or protect you against any form of damage to your reputation.

What is contractual dental indemnity?

In contrast, contractual indemnity operates under a contractual agreement between you and your insurance provider, offering specific coverage based on the terms and conditions outlined in the insurance policy you take out with them.

Contractual indemnity is legally binding and designed to provide you with all the legal support and financial resources you need against any claims made against you, as long as it meets the specified terms of your contract.

Unlike MDOs, insurance policy providers are also regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that they are required to treat all clients fairly, disclose their full financial position when required, and hold adequate fund reserves to meet claims. In addition, insurance policies come with protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FCSC), meaning that policy holders are eligible for compensation should the insurer be unable to cover the cost of a claim.

So why is discretionary cover available?

After hearing the differences between the two types of indemnity cover, you may be wondering why discretionary cover exists at all.

This is a good question and one that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is currently looking into.

MDOs and other discretionary indemnity providers state that discretionary indemnity allows protection to go further than contractual indemnity could, offering added flexibility to avoid any potential gaps, grey areas or hidden issues within insurance policies.

However, we’d argue that any of these issues could be avoided by simply working with an insurance broker that specialises in dental indemnity insurance.

Here at Howden Medical Indemnity, for instance, our team regularly keep up to date with any challenges or changes across the profession to ensure all our policies correspond to the needs of dental professionals. That way, we can tailor our insurance and minimise any potential grey areas while still providing you with a level of contractual certainty.

The importance of picking the right cover

In accordance with the General Dental Council (GDC), all UK-based dental professionals are required to have an appropriate dental indemnity in place.

This is to not only provide financial protection for patients that experience harm as a result of their dental experience but it is also to protect you from their claims. Mistakes and accidents can happen, after all, so it’s crucial to have some form of reliable financial protection in place.

Dentistry can also be an incredibly stressful profession, with some of the highest levels of stress-related conditions, like depression or anxiety, in the UK.

Therefore, having suitable protection in place goes far beyond simply providing financial protection. It is also essential for offering peace of mind, allowing you to focus on what you do best: helping your patients.

If you’re a new dentist, our need-to-know dental indemnity checklist should provide you with all the information you need to find the right indemnity cover for you.

Choose dental indemnity cover you can trust

Here at Howden Medical Indemnity, we deliver a wide range of contractual dental indemnity policies, offering competitive premiums and fully customisable coverage to suit dental professionals at any stage of their career.

Our highly trained team are dedicated to making your insurance policy as transparent and easy to understand as possible, by providing you with a dedicated account handler who will understand your specific needs and circumstances, before offering tailored insurance to fit.

Don’t compromise on your dental indemnity – work with a broker you can trust. Simply contact our team or drop us a message to get started on building your ideal coverage.

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