We have previously written about the UK government’s plan to set up designated settings for persons leaving hospital who require a care home but have a diagnosis of COVID-19. This was originally outlined in the Adult Social Care Winter plan released in November, and each local authority was required to put in place plans to set up such facilities. Part of the set up problems was the willingness of the insurance market to provide cover for these settings.
In a written statement this week (18 January 2021), the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed provision of a temporary government backed indemnity to provide cover for clinical negligence, EL and PL cover in the circumstances where a care provider cannot secure sufficient cover, or cover at all via the commercial insurance market. The scheme is intended to run only until the end of March 2021 and, as such, has the feeling of a ‘stop gap’ solution.
Although the wording of yesterday’s statement is not entirely explicit about this, it is very much our understanding that the new scheme is to cater for the claims risks around COVID positive patients being discharged from hospitals. This is the basis of the winter plan referred to above and of updated guidance issued only last week by the DHSC on precisely that scenario. Additional guidance on the approach in designated settings has also been provided by the CQC and should be read alongside the DHSC’s.
The scheme is not intended to replace commercial cover, but rather fill in gaps where cover cannot be secured fully. At this stage it is not clear how less than full cover might be defined nor how such partial or limited cover might operate alongside the newly-announced indemnity arrangement. Early indications of any detail would obviously be very welcome in that regard.
Meanwhile in the same statement, Mr Zahawi confirmed clinical negligence cover would be provided to community pharmacies involved with administration of the COVID-19 vaccines, this scheme being extended until the end of June 2021.
At the same time as the statement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock released a short departmental minute which provides some context. The minute includes an estimate from the Government Actuary’s Department that these two time-limited schemes could ultimately cost the government between £30m to £70m. Although Mr Hancock said that “We expect the true value of the contingent liability to be at the lower end of the stated range” he took some care to point out it was based on certain high-level assumptions about future claims and “as such it is highly uncertain”.
While the provision of these government backed indemnities are of course very timely in respect of enacting a smooth process for discharge of patients from hospitals as well as the roll out of vaccines, it is not clear at this stage how far the government indemnity would extend where there is partial cover obtained on the commercial insurance market, and insurers would do well to ensure any cover offered to care providers and pharmacies is carefully worded.
A full copy of the statement can be found here.
Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM