Dr Lucy Hanington, Medicolegal Consultant at Medical Protection, recalls a case in which an NHS consultant was called as ‘Interested Person’ by the coroner’s office.
Dr G, an NHS consultant psychiatrist, contacted Medical Protection for assistance with a statement for the coroner. She had been involved in a Mental Health Act assessment of a 25-year-old patient with severe depression and anxiety. The team decided that the patient was not detainable under the Act and arranged for input from the Crisis team. Tragically, shortly after the assessment, the patient jumped from a railway bridge and died.
As a psychiatrist, Dr G had been involved in a number of inquests previously. She was used to seeking advice from Medical Protection regarding her statement but was aware that it is generally best to remain under the Trust’s umbrella of support and representation at the inquest. However, on this occasion, she was alarmed to be informed that the Trust would not be able to assist her, as Section 12 work was considered as separate to her contract with the Trust. She had informed Medical Protection of this role and called the advice line to ask for assistance.
How Medical Protection assisted
A case file was opened and Dr G’s statement was reviewed. Her Medicolegal Consultant (MLC) liaised with the coroner’s office and determined that Dr G was being called as an ‘Interested Person’ (IP) and as such was entitled to legal representation. The MLC also asked about any concerns raised regarding Dr G’s care and was provided with a copy of a letter from the family which asked a number of questions. The coroner requested that these questions be addressed in Dr G’s statement.
With Dr G’s permission, the MLC instructed a legal adviser to represent Dr G and a meeting was arranged to review the draft statement and discuss the family’s concerns. These included the fact that the team had not reviewed the patient’s records fully, and that the father’s account of the patient’s recent behaviour had not been given due consideration.
The Medical Protection solicitor attended the inquest with Dr G. Unfortunately, Dr G was criticised by the coroner (along with the other healthcare professionals involved in the assessment) and was subsequently advised to self-refer to the GMC in accordance with paragraph 75a of Good Medical Practice. Her Medical Protection team provided advice regarding conducting reflection and re-education and advised on the self-referral notification. The GMC was satisfied that the concerns had been suitably addressed and closed the case.
NHS Consultants, while generally represented by a Trust’s legal team at an inquest, are still able to receive advice from Medical Protection in relation to their statement for the coroner, or on giving evidence, as part of their membership. As here, the Trust’s legal team may not always be able to support its employees, whereas Medical Protection can offer advice tailored to the individual member.
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