Written byShaun McGowan
As an Accredited Practicing Dietitian in Australia you are a highly qualified professional with knowledge and skills your clients do not possess. This means that your clients have a legal right to rely on the expert advice you give them, and to expect you to provide your services to a high professional standard.
Your work may include:
Like any other health practitioner there is always a risk that a client will be unhappy with the outcome of your advice, and decide to file a law suit against you. Their claims could include:
Dietitians are not required to be registered in order to practice in Australia. However in lieu of the type of statutory requirements that govern the practice of many other fields of medicine, the Australian Federal Government has approved the use of the Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) credential. Without this credential you cannot register as a practitioner with the Health Insurance Commission (HIC), the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) or private health funds.
The APD is regulated by the Dietitians’ Association of Australia, which imposes strict requirements regarding qualifications, ongoing professional development and ethical conduct. The Dietitian Scope of Practice Framework requires that Dietitians only undertake activities that are covered by their professional indemnity insurance policy.
These requirements exist to protect both you and your clients, by ensuring that funds will be available to cover any damages you have to pay should you make a mistake and cause harm or financial loss to a client during the course of your work.
In addition to the requirements of the DAA, there are many reasons why you need to protect yourself with professional indemnity insurance if you are offering your services as a Dietitian. Here are some of them:
Your public liability insurance will protect you if a client has an accident on your premises, or in the event that you accidentally injure someone or damage their property. However, if you face a claim that you have caused harm (physical or financial) as a result of negligence in the course of your work, this will not be covered by your public liability insurance.
To protect you in these circumstances you will need professional indemnity insurance. Professional indemnity insurance covers your legal costs if you have to defend yourself against a negligence claim, and also covers any compensation or damages you are required to pay to a client if the claim against you is successful (up to the limit in your policy).
Your professional indemnity insurance premium will depend on a number of factors, including:
If you choose to include additional features in your policy, such as retroactive protection, run off cover or automatic reinstatement, these will increase the cost of your insurance.
A client consulted a Dietitian with the goals of losing weight and managing consistently high blood pressure that was causing him headaches and dizziness. The Dietitian conducted a complete assessment and devised an individual meal plan for the client to reduce his salt and calorie intake.
The client followed the Dietitians advice and meal plan and began to lose weight, but his blood pressure remained high. He ultimately suffered a stroke which left him physically impaired and unable to work. He decided to take legal action against the Dietitian for negligence, claiming that she had failed to provide the required service of helping him to reduce his blood pressure.
The claim against the Dietitian was dismissed in court because the client lived a high stress lifestyle, was a smoker, and did not participate in regular exercise - factors which were all considered to be responsible for his continued high blood pressure despite his healthier diet. The Dietitian incurred legal costs of $14,000 in defending the claim, which were covered by her professional indemnity insurance. Her excess on the claim was just $[xx].
As an Accredited Practicing Dietitian you are required to have professional indemnity insurance cover for any activity you undertake, including:
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