Medical Defence Union

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The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is the second largest medical defence organisation (MDO) in the United Kingdom, and is one of three major MDOs in the country offering indemnity for clinical negligence claims for its members.

The MDU was established in 1885 and was the first of its kind in the world. Members are doctors, medical students or other healthcare professionals; the MDU provides legal support should their clinical competence be questioned. It used to have members outside the United Kingdom, including in Singapore and Hong Kong, but withdrew from these commitments in the late-1990s.


The Medical Defence Union was founded in 1885 following outrage in the medical community over the case of a Dr David Bradley who was wrongly convicted of a charge of assaulting a woman in his surgery. Dr Bradley spent eight months in prison before receiving a full pardon.[2]

By late 1885, there was increasing recognition among the medical profession of the real risk doctors ran in their everyday practice and the poor resources at their disposal to defend themselves. The British Medical Association, for example, to which many of the profession belonged, was not permitted under its constitution to undertake individual medical defence.

In 1885, solicitors Mr Dauney and Mr Cridland, together with Mr Rideal, Mr Clements, Mr Leggatt, Mr Sinyanki and Mr Fitzgerald, signed a memorandum that established the aims and objectives of the newly registered company, the Medical Defence Union. They were the first executive board. The annual subscription cost for members was set at 10 shillings.[3]


Some of the services provided by the MDU include:

  • Professional indemnity against claims for clinical negligence
  • Support and representation at GMC fitness to practise hearings
  • Medico-legal advice
  • Help at inquests, inquiries and disciplinary proceedings
  • Support when faced with media attention
  • Risk-management advice and guidance
  • CPD-accredited education courses
  • Member discounts on books, courses, online revision resources


The first MDU medico-legal journal for its members was printed in 1985[4] and ran three issues per year. The printed medico-legal journal ceased production in April 2014 and was superseded by a digital-only publication that is available to members and non-members alike. The MDU were the first of the three main MDOs in the UK to offer a digital publication.


In 2012 the MDU launched its campaign calling on the government to make compensation for injured patients fair and affordable.[5] The campaign was launched in response to spiralling medical negligence bills which have quadrupled in the last decade.[6] According to chief executive, Dr Christine Tomkins, compensation claims in England are among the highest in the world and the consequence of this on general practice and the wider NHS is catastrophic.[7]

Regulatory and legal information

The Medical Defence Union is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for insurance mediation and consumer credit activities only. The MDU is not an insurance company. The benefits of MDU membership are all discretionary and are subject to the Memorandum and Articles of Association.[8]


  1. ^ "The Medical Defence Union Ltd Plc".
  2. ^ "Br Med J 1885;1:403".
  3. ^ "The MDU journal - June 2010" (PDF). The MDU. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Serials Union Catalogue for the UK research community". SUNCAT. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Tackling the problem of spiralling medical negligence compensation". Politics Home. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Medical blunders cost NHS billions". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Compensation culture damaging patients' ability to access GPs". On Medica. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Memorandum and articles of association". The MDU. Retrieved 11 January 2016.

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