To notify, or not to notify? That is the question

If you have bought an insurance policy to cover you against claims for medical malpractice, then you have bought that policy for one thing: Protection. Protection from not only the fees and costs that come with the defence and settlement of a clinical negligence claim, but also to provide you with an appropriate defence against the allegations that have been made against you.

It is important to remember, however, that your insurance policy is also a contract that comes with terms and conditions, which your insurers expect you to abide by. Although you will have an understanding of what your policy provides cover for, some of these terms and conditions may not be as obvious. In our experience, the most common example is the question of what our clients should “notify” to their policy (that is, what problems they should inform their insurers about) and when they should make a “notification” (that is, provide information about a problem).

Indeed, it is possible for insurers to completely decline to cover a claim simply due to late notification. So, what should you look out for? What should you notify?

There is a wide range of things that could be notifiable. Some are quite obvious such as a formal written complaint from a patient you have treated, or a letter from the GMC in relation to an investigation they are commencing. However, there are other situations where you might feel quite unsure about whether the matter should be notified, such as when a patient seeks a copy of his or her medical records, or where the patient has only expressed dissatisfaction verbally.

To notify, or not to notify? If you are asking yourself that question, then you need advice straight away. Incision members have access to a 24/7 notification and medico-legal helpline to assist with exactly these sorts of questions.

This article is an extract of a more detailed and extensive guidance note available only to Incision members.

About the author

Joanne Staphnill, Partner - DWF LLP

Joanne Staphnill

After reading Law at Cambridge, Joanne was called to the Bar in 2003 and her work in pupillage included many clinical negligence and high-value personal injury cases. She re-qualified as a solicitor in 2006, and since then has regularly defended clinical negligence claims and has excellent experience in resolving claims through the pre-action protocol, alternative dispute resolutions and through the courts. Joanne always aims to understand whether a claim may affect the clinician’s professional reputation and takes pride in guiding clients who are unfamiliar with the legal process. Joanne and the DWF team continue to provide legal assistance and support and she produces extensive risk management materials for Incision members.