What you need to know

All dental professionals are legally obliged to have adequate and appropriate indemnity in place as soon as they start practising in the UK.

As your dental defence organisation, we can help you with this - and a lot more. As well as providing indemnity, we offer guidance and dento-legal support with responding to complaints and other problems arising from clinical practice, including disciplinary investigations.

Find out more below about what indemnity is, why you need it and how the DDU can help.

Frequently asked questions

What is professional indemnity?

Indemnity is the term for the financial support a dental professional receives if they are sued. It's used to defend a clinical negligence claim and, if required, to compensate the patient.

Why do I need professional indemnity?

All dental professionals must have adequate and appropriate indemnity in place as soon as they start practising in the UK. This is also a requirement of registration for the GDC.

If you were sued, the damages paid in compensation can, in some cases, run into many thousands of pounds. Then there are the legal costs of defending the claim, which may be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

You need to be able to access financial support to help you meet all the costs of defending claims - including paying the damages and the legal costs involved if the claim does need to be settled.

When do I need professional indemnity?

You'll need to make sure you have adequate indemnity in place if a patient alleges they've been negligently affected by the treatment provided by you, as the treating dental professional, and seeks financial compensation.

We help members by providing access to professional indemnity, as well as expert guidance and ongoing support during these difficult experiences. Make sure you contact us with an issue or concern right away so we can help from the start, which may include writing an effective response to a complaint.

What's the difference between occurrence-based and claims-made indemnity?

When considering what type of indemnity to get, bear in mind that adverse incidents may not come to light until many months, or even years, after your contact with a patient. This makes it very different to the types of insurance you may be more familiar with, such as for your car or house.

Your car or house insurance is likely to be on a claims-made basis. This means you can request assistance as long as that request is made when your policy is active. This model generally works well for car insurance, as you're likely to know immediately if you've crashed your car.

Dental indemnity and insurance are both also sometimes offered on a claims-made basis, and can be a suitable option if a claim is brought soon after the incident that caused it. However, if an incident occurred during your claims-made period but the patient wasn't aware there was a problem with treatment at the time, they may not bring a claim until they discover something went wrong - which could be some time afterwards.

This means that once a claims-made period comes to an end, you'd need to arrange and pay for additional 'run-off', so that you have the necessary clinical negligence indemnity or insurance for incidents that have already occurred, but where the problem is yet to come to light.

In contrast, occurrence-based membership with the DDU means you have the reassurance that you can ask for our assistance as long as you are (or were) a DDU member when the incident happened. This applies even if you're no longer a member, have retired or stopped practising. Your estate can ask for our help even after your death.

See our member guide or contact our membership team to find out more.

What else can a dental defence organisation help me with?

We offer members expert guidance and personal support if your clinical competence or care of patients is questioned.

Members can contact us with difficult ethical or dento-legal issues and speak to specially trained dentists for free, at any time. This could be help with dealing with a complaint, the media or the police.

Our dento-legal team is available between 8am and 6pm on Monday to Friday and we also provide a 24-hour advice line for dento-legal emergencies or urgent queries 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Do I need indemnity as a dental student?

Students occasionally encounter complaints during the clinical aspects of their course, and these could potentially escalate beyond a local investigation and lead to a student fitness to practise investigation. In these cases, we can help provide support and advice every step of the way.

It's free to join the DDU as a student.

GDC guidance on indemnity

  • Dental professionals are legally obliged to have adequate and appropriate indemnity in place as soon as they start practising in the UK.

  • Indemnity arrangements should be adequate and appropriate for the risks and nature of your scope of practice.

  • NHS or employer indemnity schemes might not be able to provide you with individual advice and help for other dento-legal matters from your clinical practice, such as complaints or disciplinary investigations. Check what support you can get from your defence organisation.

Guidance and advice