Copyright 2017 - Clinical Commissioning Groups Association

Keeping your surgery in tip top condition - Towergate Insurance

When it comes to insurance, we all hope that we won’t ever need to make a claim but if we do, that the process will be quick and straight-forward, enabling us to continue as we were before, as quickly as possible. In this article we look at some of the main issues that could stop a surgery from delivering the best possible care to its patients.

A major interruption – how would your surgery cope?

In recent years we have seen disruption from snow, rain, and even a volcano ash cloud.  Whilst these types of interruptions don’t happen too frequently, they can obviously have an impact on the smooth running of your surgery. 

If your surgery was to suffer from a huge disruption, such as a fire or a flood, what would the implications be? While some things will always be outside of your control, there are steps you can take to ensure any risk to your surgery is limited.

Business Interruption Insurance

The Business Interruption cover within your insurance policy will be critical to your ability to get back on your feet quickly and will usually have a ‘material damage proviso’. This means an event usually insured under the material damage section (such as a fire or flood) must have occurred and caused damage before cover is activated.

Beyond that, the protection provided by different insurers can vary substantially so you should take time to understand the basis on which you’re covered, the adequacy of the indemnity period specified and the impact of any extensions or exclusions on your particular surgery.

Business Continuity Plan

Ensuring your practice insurance policy provides ‘Business Interruption’ cover is crucial, but a Business Continuity Plan is also a key part of the solution. Having specific instructions in place should any disruptive event occur will mean that you and your staff can get your surgery back up and running as quickly as possible.

Some questions you might want to consider when creating your plan are:

  • Do your staff know what to do in the event of a major incident?
  • Are your staff contact details up to date and stored in an accessible place other than in the surgery?
  • What you would do if your surgery lost a utility for a period of time?
  • How would you access patient records if you experienced an IT failure?
  • Have you considered preparing an emergency pack?

Ensure you review the plan at least every six months and that copies are held off site too. A prudent insurance provider may also offer you specific tools and support to help you to create, implement and manage your business continuity plan, so it is always worth asking the question to find out what may already be at your disposal.

Preparing for the unexpected

You arrive at work to find a tree jutting through the surgery roof like a badly broken bone. It’s not going to be a great day but if you can get straight down to action by knowing exactly the procedure to follow, it could stop the day from getting any worse. 

This is why it is always worth taking the time to think about what you would do in the event of significant damage or break-in at your premises, as those first precious few minutes following the realisation that an incident has occurred could be critical.

Having practice insurance gives you peace of mind, but dealing with an incident at your premises involves more than just telling your insurance company what’s happened. As a practice manager, it is your responsibility to make sure things do not spiral out of control and any impact on patients’ services is minimised.

Ensure premises are safe

In an emergency it’s easy to forget the basics; like keeping employees, patients and other visitors to the premises safe. So if a tree has damaged your roof, your priority is to secure the area and if that is not possible, direct people away from it until you can.

Prevent further damage or loss

You also have a duty to reduce the impact of any damage you’ve suffered and take steps to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Theft claims, for instance, are often made worse by the insured failing to secure the property and experiencing a subsequent additional theft.

The small print

Insurance policies include very specific instructions about when and how claims should be notified. It’s important you follow these so that your claim is processed as swiftly as possible. So ensure you know how quickly you’re expected to get in touch and what information you need to provide. It’s likely to include:

  • An estimate of repair costs
  • Photos of any damage
  • Other evidence including eye witness accounts, CCTV footage etc.

We recommend keeping a copy of your policy at home as you might not be able to access the original when you need it most.

Don’t get tripped up by general liability claims

Slips, trips and falls make up the majority of public liability claims, so keep areas free of clutter, clean up spillages quickly, fix raised carpet edges and train staff in the importance of recognising and removing potential hazards.

Even in the most risk aware practices, accidents can happen and in today’s compensation-driven climate, a claim is not only more likely, it can be expensive to resolve too. How you deal with incidents that could give rise to a liability claim is crucial to ensuring you stay in control of the situation:

  • Inform your broker as soon as possible – some policies may have strict rules about what information should be provided to whom and when.
  • Get a grip on the evidence – collect written details of what happened quickly as memories can fade or become confused over time.
  • Put it right – fixing a problem is not an admission of guilt and could help prevent future incidents.
  • Show you care – be supportive to the injured party and consider formal medical assistance. This might avoid a claim and usually makes for a quick recovery. If a claim is subsequently made, payments for time off, loss of earnings and physical suffering could be significantly reduced.

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder

At some point, your staff will be absent for one reason or another. Some surgeries choose to self-manage this by putting aside money each year to pay for the cost of a locum to cover sessions, whilst other surgeries will choose to take out a locum insurance policy to cover this cost. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages and it is a decision that needs careful consideration to ensure you have the right solution for your practice.

Self-managing gives you control over how the money is spent and if you have low absence, can be the best approach. However, you run the risk of going substantially over budget if you experience any significant long-term absence. If you choose to take out insurance, bear in mind who you will be covering. Most locum insurance policies will insure named GP’s and this involves a lengthy quotation process and will require mid-term adjustments if a GP leaves or joins during the life of the policy.

A small number of insurance brokers offer a locum policy that covers everyone employed in the practice as they recognise that everyone is crucial in providing care to patients and keeping a surgery running seamlessly.

Arranging surgery and locum insurance is not exciting but by carrying out research and checking the features and benefits of each policy such as cover levels, limitations and how claims are handled will ensure you have the right policy for your practice and can ensure your surgery has the protection it needs to be there for your patients when they need you.

Towergate Insurance

Towergate Insurance has been providing insurance to surgeries for over 100 years. They specialise in providing surgery, locum, medical indemnity and specialist home insurance for medical professionals. They currently insure over a third of surgeries in the UK and work with leading insurers such as AXA and Zurich. In addition, they can also offer exclusive no claims discounts for members of the CCGA and a free portal giving support and advice on health and safety, HR and business continuity.


Content provided by Towergate Insurance. For more information please visit or call them on 0330 123 3598.

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