John Makin, head of the DDU, discusses the importance of indemnity for dental nurses.

Having access to indemnity is a condition of GDC registration, and dental professionals applying to join or renew their registration must confirm they have indemnity in place - or will have - by the time they start practising.

The GDC might ask for more information, so it's important to know the details of any policy or dental defence organisation (DDO) membership you intend to rely on.

Additionally, all dental professionals applying for restoration to the register are now required to give evidence of their existing or proposed indemnity.

The GDC outlines this in paragraph 1.8 of its 'Standards for the dental team' and states that all members of the dental team, including nurses, "must have appropriate arrangements in place for patients to seek compensation if they suffer harm."

Moreover, the GDC's 'Guidance on indemnity' also says you "must not make any assumptions about whether or not you are covered by [your employer's] arrangements". If you're relying on these arrangements, you must check the position with your employer.

It's sensible to have expert support in place to protect your reputation and livelihood if you face criticism, a complaint, claim or an investigation.

Indemnity for dental nurses in practice

Dental nurses are responsible for making sure they either have access to indemnity in their own right, or that appropriate arrangements are in place through their employer. The GDC recognises the following:

  • DDO membership - a nurse's own or indemnity provided through employer's membership
  • professional indemnity insurance held by a nurse or their employer
  • indemnity provided by NHS bodies.

If a nurse is employed by a practice, the employer is legally responsible for the nurse's acts and omissions during their employment. In the event of a claim for compensation, the employer is likely to be financially liable for the legal costs and any patient compensation. This is known as employer's vicarious liability.

In the same way, any employee of an NHS trust, such as dental nurses working in the hospital dental service, should be covered by indemnity provided by NHS bodies for clinical negligence claims - but it would be a good idea to confirm this with the employing trust.

Indemnity arrangements offered by both DDOs and commercial insurers are recognised by the GDC. However, with some insurance policies, a nurse or their employer may need to buy additional cover if either party decides to cease their policy and move to another provider. This might happen if (for example) the cost of the premium increases, the provider declines to offer further cover, or you stop working.

This is to insure you and your employer for past periods of practice from which claims can still arise many years later, and is known as 'run off cover'. It can be prohibitively expensive to buy for an adequate period and it may only be included for death, disability or retirement. Insurance arrangements vary significantly, so it is important to understand the terms and conditions in any small print.

It's sensible to have expert support in place to protect your reputation and livelihood if you face criticism, a complaint, claim or an investigation.

How does the DDU support dental nurses?

As a not-for-profit mutual organisation, we are committed to supporting all our members by providing expert guidance and a robust defence in addressing dento-legal investigations.

If you're a dental nurse and your employer is a DDU member paying the appropriate practice principal subscription, they can request our assistance with vicarious liability claims arising from one of their employee's work.

Additionally, if you have indemnity arrangements in place through your employer's DDU membership, you can ask them to provide proof of their membership and a signed letter confirming that as an employee, you have access to this indemnity for the work you carry out in the practice.

However, if you rely on your employer's professional indemnity arrangements for claims, it's worth considering the benefits of joining a dental defence organisation in your own right.

As a member of the DDU, you can ask for assistance as long as you were a member at the time of the incident, even if you are not a member any more, or have left the profession. In fact, over a recent three-year period, the DDU assisted members with 99.6% of requests and our member guide sets out clearly what you can expect from us.

The DDU's dental nurse membership gives you other membership benefits, such as access to dento-legal advice via our 24-hour helpline, specialist legal representation and assistance with GDC, disciplinary and even criminal investigations, learning and development resources (including our online e-learning courses), webinars, case studies, and advice and help dealing with any unwanted press attention.

DDU app


Another way the DDU supports its members is through our practice scheme, GROUPCARE, which is free to open and provides support and savings for the whole dental team where at least half the dentists (minimum of two) in the practice are DDU members. Additionally, dental nurses who join GROUPCARE receive a 50% saving on dental nurse membership.

Other benefits of the GROUPCARE scheme include:

  • a 5% discount off DDU membership for all members in the practice
  • free practice manager membership
  • a range of free CPD practice presentations, such as good record keeping, dealing with challenging patients, confidentiality and managing complaints
  • dedicated support from our team of dental liaison managers.

If all the dentists in a practice are DDU members, members can access additional benefits, including:

  • 10% off DDU membership;
  • access to a free 24-hour health and safety advice line.

At the DDU, we are always happy to answer your questions about indemnity. Visit our website, or get in touch via our Facebook and Twitter channels.

To learn more about the DDU's GROUPCARE scheme visit and complete an online application or get in touch with one of our regional dental liaison managers.

This piece was originally published in Dental Nursing magazine and has been edited for publication.

This page was correct at publication on 26/01/2022. 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.