8 May 2017Could your school be at risk of a medical malpractice suit?
The Children and Families Act 2014 explains general principles that schools and local authorities should have in place for disabled children and those with special education or medical needs.
It is designed to ensure that these children have access to a full education. As part of this act, teaching staff are expected to oversee and carry out a range of medical interventions such as administering medication. The increased risk that comes with this duty of care means that schools and local authorities need to ensure they have medical malpractice cover in place.
This act requires schools to put a policy into action which identifies and offers ongoing support to students with qualifying medical conditions. Part of this support requires them to implement a healthcare plan which explains what needs to be done to enable the pupil to receive a full education as well as who should take ownership of these tasks. It will also usually explain any medical treatment which may be required as well as identifying any training needed to make sure the treatment is carried out correctly.
As schools take greater responsibility for the healthcare of those in their charge, there is an increased chance that they are not adequately covered to do so. Local authorities cannot just assume that their public liability cover will include medical malpractice, as this cover often isn’t extensive enough to cover these new responsibilities.
Whether current cover is adequate depends on the medical intervention required and will vary from case to case, usually if treatment is invasive or requires a decision from the person administering treatment – for example dosage – then it will not be covered.
Administering medicine in itself has become increasingly complicated as personalised prescriptions require a number of factors to be considered including whether the child has eaten or taken other drugs which could interact with the dosage, generating additional risk for the education facility to navigate.
How can you address this risk?
These additional requirements from staff mean that a robust risk management approach is more vital than ever before. Regular reviews should be organised to ensure that schools understand the different types of treatments needed by their pupils and that all staff are up to date on the required training.
This should be an ongoing task, not a yearly one, as pupil’s requirements can change at any time. Schools should make sure they notify the authorities as soon as a student’s situation changes.
Local authorities have a responsibility too. They should be ensuring that adequate nursing support is available in schools. While many have an outsourced company to provide this, from an insurance perspective it makes a difference whether staff are employed directly or sent through an agency.
Choosing the right cover
It is up to local authorities to make sure the correct cover is in place. As the level of public liability varies between insurers, you should check with yours what is covered as in some instances your existing cover may be suitable.
If you need additional medical malpractice insurance this can sometimes be secured by extending your public liability with a blanket cover that insures the required number of pupils and schools.
If you are in any doubt, you should speak to your insurance provider to make sure you are not inadvertently taking on unnecessary risk with inadequate insurance cover.