DDU calls for immunity for dental professionals from Covid-19 legal claims

The Dental Defence Union (DDU), is calling for dental professionals to be spared the stress and anxiety of clinical negligence claims relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DDU explained that several US states including New York, New Jersey and Michigan have already adopted laws that provide healthcare professionals and hospitals with 'immunity from civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained because of any acts or omissions undertaken in good faith' during the crisis.

John Makin, head of the DDU, said:

'During the pandemic, dental professionals are working hard to provide telephone triage and other services such as urgent dental care centres, while others have volunteered to be redeployed in other medical settings. These professionals are under tremendous pressure, taking difficult decisions about patient care in very challenging conditions.

'Dental professionals are vulnerable to negligence claims arising from acts and omissions undertaken in good faith during the pandemic. Given that such claims can arise years after the events in question, the extraordinary period in which these decisions were taken will have faded from the collective memory.

'In the current climate, different considerations apply, something that has been recognised by the GDC when examining fitness to practise complaints.

'We believe there should be immunity for dental professionals from Covid-19 related claims. Of course, dental professional must be accountable for their actions but the unprecedented circumstances in which care was provided must be remembered when investigating medical and dental negligence claims arising from the pandemic.'

The DDU also backed a call from think tank IPPR for a support package to protect healthcare professionals' health and wellbeing during and after the pandemic. The Care fit for carers report examines the impact of Covid-19 on the safety and welfare of healthcare workers and concludes that the UK government should adopt five guarantees.

In addition to the five guarantees being demanded by the report around safety, accommodation, mental health, pay and childcare provision, the DDU suggests a sixth guarantee of:

An immunity from Covid-19-related claims – healthcare professionals must be accountable for their actions but the unprecedented circumstances in which care was provided must be remembered when investigating dental and medical negligence claims arising from the pandemic. 

This page was correct at publication on 27/04/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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