An ST5 in anaesthetics – Dr N – is sent a letter by her hospital trust requesting that she attend a meeting in regard to a clinical incident in theatre. A patient became unresponsive after a lumbar-pelvic wedge was removed during a caesarean delivery.
Dr N is told that an investigation officer would like to speak with her in the capacity of witness only. No medical records have been provided and Dr N is concerned about attending a meeting without having reviewed and discussed relevant documents with an MDDUS adviser. She asks for advice on how to reply.
An MDDUS adviser writes back to Dr N and advises that under Generl Medical Council guidance (and trust policy) she has an obligation to cooperate with any investigations relating to adverse clinical incidents. GMC guidance in Good medical practice states (paragraph 73): “You must cooperate with formal inquiries and complaints procedures and must offer all relevant information while following the guidance in Confidentiality.”
The adviser does however point out that Dr N should be allowed to review the patient records before providing responses to questions relating to her involvement in the care. GMC guidance on Acting as a witness in legal proceedings (paragraph 9) states: “As a witness of fact, your written and oral evidence should be clear and concise, and must be based as far as possible on clinical records and notes made at the relevant period of time.”
Dr N is advised to respond to the hospital trust with a request to review the patient records before attending any meeting in regard to the incident. Should the trust decline the request, Dr N may still attend for interview but could politely decline to answer any questions that would require review of the records in order to provide a full and adequate response.
The MDDUS adviser points out that Dr N cannot be compelled to discuss details she cannot reliably recall. It would be best simply to say that she is unable to recall the matter sufficiently well enough, and in order to respond fully she will need to review the medical records.
- Doctors have an obligation to cooperate with formal inquiries or complaint procedures.
- Make clear the limits of your competence and knowledge when giving evidence or acting as a witness.
- Ensure that any evidence you provide is accurate and not misleading, and do not deliberately leave out relevant information.
This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.