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Disaster strikes the surgery! Are you sufficiently protected?

In normal times, GP surgeries happily practice out of their premises with no major issues. But what happens if a disaster strikes – maybe in the form of flood, fire or storm damage to your premises? This blog aims to highlight some important matters you should consider to make sure you protect your business from unexpected interruptions.

Understand the risksâ

It is important to ensure that you have adequate insurance and contingency planning in place to deal with the unexpected. If, for example, your premises flood or are damaged by fire, you could be obliged to:

  • find and pay for new premises to operate from on a temporary basis;
  • repair the structure of the building;
  • repair & redecorate the interior of the building;
  • replace all damaged contents, including medical supplies, refrigeration units and IT equipment;
  • pay for clear up costs.

If you are a tenant of leased premises, you may think that the landlord’s building insurance covers you for some, or all, of the above, but that is rarely the case. Typically, the landlord is only obliged to insure the structure of the building and not your contents. Nor are they under any obligation to provide you with alternative temporary premises. It is, however, likely that the rent you pay to the landlord (for your damaged building) will be temporarily suspended if you cannot occupy the premises.

Perhaps the biggest risk â

It’s not only the immediate costs you incur as a result of a disaster, but a longer term risk to your business. If, for example, you are left unable to carry on providing some or all of your services and find yourself having to cancel certain clinics, you may be at risk of beaching your NHS contract. Under your contract you are obliged to be able to provide services from agreed premises at agreed times. Whilst the commissioner may be sympathetic to your plight, ultimately they will want to understand how you will continue to see patients. If you are unable to satisfactorily explain this, you risk receiving a Breach Notice.

Safeguard your positionâ

Having a disaster recovery plan in place is vital, as it is not easy to think with a clear head during a disaster. Be sure to keep an easily accessible copy of your disaster recovery plan off-site too – it’s no good to you if it’s destroyed by fire – and ensure that all the staff understand what they should do. The disaster recovery plan should cover a variety of different scenarios, but from a premises perspective, you should ideally have an agreed back up location in place, such as temporarily opening in the village hall or sharing a neighbouring surgery.

It may sound obvious, but ensure sufficient insurance is in place. Review the value of your contents cover regularly to ensure it remains adequate, particularly when you purchase a new piece of valuable equipment.

You may want to consider taking out ‘business interruption’ insurance, which could help with the emergency costs and any loss to your business as a result of an unexpected disaster. Speak to your insurance broker to get advice as to what would be appropriate in your particular circumstance. If you don’t have a broker, we would be happy to introduce you to specialist healthcare brokers through our network.


Disasters can be expensive but they don’t have to be catastrophic. Proper planning and protection will help ensure you can continue to deliver services to your patients safely and with minimum disruption.

If the worst happens and your practice does find itself ‘homeless’, then we recommend you take professional advice early on to understand your rights and confirm your responsibilities.

If you would like to discuss anything in this blog, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com.