The Medical Defence Union wants doctors to be given immunity from negligence claims arising from treatment delivered during the coronavirus crisis.

The organisation, which indemnifies doctors from incidents arising from clinical care, said doctors in primary and secondary care are being asked to work outside their areas of expertise in order to treat Covid-19 sufferers. This includes retired doctors called back to work and final-year medical students who have started work early.

The MDU said that doctors should be ‘spared from the stress and anxiety’ of medical negligence claims following the virus, although it was not aware of any claims having been made yet.

‘We are concerned that medical liability claims will come long after public memory of the sacrifices made by healthcare workers have been forgotten and the circumstances of the pandemic, which require people to work outside their speciality and beyond their experience, will also be forgotten,’ said MDU chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins. 

'Our members are working under tremendous pressure, taking difficult decisions about patient care in very challenging conditions and we want them to be able to do so without fear they will be unfairly judged in the months and years ahead.'

The MDU stated that any compensation paid will be a drain on NHS resources and harmful for the morale of staff working in the health service. Claims would also place an additional burden on taxpayers at a time when the economy is trying to recover.

It has been reported 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.


*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.