When Mr David Atkinson*, a consultant upper GI surgeon from Leeds, was asked to provide a statement to the coroner, he contacted Medical Protection for support and guidance.
Mr Atkinson was asked by his Trust’s legal team to provide a statement for the coroner regarding a patient who had died shortly after undergoing a endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedure (ERCP).
He contacted Medical Protection and we reviewed his statement before submitting it to the Trust’s legal team. Mr Atkinson told his Medicolegal Consultant (MLC) that he had previously submitted a statement as part of the Serious Incident (SI) investigation, but that he had not seen a copy of the final report.
What happened next?
Mr Atkinson was advised by his MLC to obtain a copy of the SI report before finalising his statement. When he got it, it became clear that the report was critical of Mr Atkinson, who disagreed with its findings. He explained that the patient had sadly suffered a recognised complication of the procedure and that this had led to death. He pointed out that the author of the SI report was a general surgeon who did not perform ERCPs as part of his routine practice.
How Medical Protection helped
The issue was raised with the Trust’s legal team, who advised that the SI report had already been submitted to the coroner. There were no plans to explore the issue further. Mr Atkinson’s MLC advised that while it is generally best for hospital doctors to remain under the Trust’s umbrella of support for the purposes of an inquest, there may sometimes be merit in having separate legal representation. With Mr Atkinson’s permission a legal adviser was instructed and an expert opinion was sought. This was supportive of Mr Atkinson’s view.
How did it end?
Since the Trust had accepted the SI report and its findings, Mr Atkinson attended the inquest separately represented by Medical Protection, supporting him throughout. The coroner accepted that the death had occurred from a recognised complication for which the patient had been consented.
It is generally best for NHS hospital doctors to remain under the Trust’s umbrella of support at an inquest but there are occasions where the Trust may not be able to provide support to its employees; for instance, where there is a conflict of interest . Medical Protection will review draft statements on a member’s behalf, and if there is a conflict of interest or difficulties in obtaining the support required, then we can swiftly arrange representation.
Criticism at an inquest can also mean self-referral to the GMC. A GMC investigation is not something that a Trust will assist an employee with, but Medical Protection will. For more information about the format of inquests and how Medical Protection can help, read more on the subject here.
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*Names and locations have been changed to protect member confidentiality.