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Conflicts and criticism in inquests

Post date: 22/07/2022 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 22/07/2022

Dr Lucy Hanington, Medicolegal Consultant, details a case which demonstrate how having separate representation via Medical Protection can help during inquest proceedings. 

Mr B, a consultant upper GI surgeon, 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 magnetic resonance cholangio pancreatography (MRCP) procedure. He contacted Medical Protection for review of his statement prior to submitting it to the Trust’s legal team for their input. He 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.  

The report 

Mr B was advised to obtain a copy of the SI report before finalising his statement. The report was critical of Mr B, 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 MRCPs as part of his routine practice.  

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 B’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 B’s permission a legal adviser was instructed and an expert opinion was sought. This was supportive of Mr B’s view. 

The inquest 

Since the Trust had accepted the SI report and its findings, Mr B attended the inquest  separately represented by Medical Protection. The coroner accepted that the death had occurred from a recognised complication for which the patient had been consented. 

Learning points  

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 a conflict of interest presents. As a representative of the member, Medical Protection will review draft statements on their behalf, and if there is a conflict of interest or difficulties in obtaining the support required, then we can swiftly arrange representation. 

Furthermore, criticism at an inquest can bring about a need to self-refer to the GMC. Where the GMC investigates matters, however supportive, – this 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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