One of the benefits of membership to the MDU is access to top quality medico-legal advice and support. It can prove invaluable to doctors when they need help dealing with ethical issues. The training the MDU's medico-legal advisers receive was recently recognised as being of the highest standard when it was awarded a Princess Royal Training award.
Below, MDU medico-legal adviser Dr Ellie Mein talks through her role as a medico-legal adviser and the importance of the training she received.
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‘I have worked as a medico-legal adviser at the MDU for over four years and in that time I have spoken to and offered advice to many members. As a team, we answer over 20,000 calls from MDU members every year on our 24-hour advice line and open many thousands of files. It is a very rewarding job that varies from day to day. We all work remotely from home in the advisory department. Every morning I wake up and log on to my computer before my working day begins so I can grab a coffee at my desk and deal with any emails that require urgent responses.
‘Everyone on the team takes advice line calls from members who need ethical and legal advice. This can be on anything from dealing with a complaint to assessing patient capacity. While some matters are resolved quickly, others require more in-depth help and a case file will be opened. This is then assigned to one particular medico-legal adviser who will deal with all matters relating to the case and act as a central contact point for the member.
‘The things we help with are really wide ranging. On an average day I will assist members with a number of matters including GMC investigations, patient complaints, Coroner’s inquires and criminal matters. The members we support are invariably under great strain and are often very concerned about what has happened. It’s vital that when they call us, the person they speak to is fully trained to advise them what actions to take as well as reassuring them personally.
‘As we assist our members with such sensitive matters, it is vital that our training is of the highest standard. The training programme is designed to ensure we are fully supported by colleagues and in turn we provide the vital round the clock guidance and support to doctors on the front-line.
‘We all work hard to provide our members with the best possible service so we are thrilled to hear that our training programme has been recognised with the Princess Royal Training Award (PRTA). We are one of only 40 organisations who received the award in 2017 from a long list of 116 and the only medical defence organisation to be given this accolade.'
The advice we provide
'Here’s an example of a typical call from a GP to our advice line:
'A GP was approached by the police asking if she could identify a driver from a CCTV photograph. The driver had apparently, seconds after the photo was taken, been involved in an incident in which a pedestrian was injured after the car emerged from the surgery car park. Witnesses at the scene had reported that the driver was driving recklessly.
'The police said they urgently needed information to identify the driver. The GP recognised the driver as one of her patients and wondered whether she should give his name and address to the police.
'The GP rang the MDU for advice. We explained there are limited circumstances that legally oblige you to disclose or volunteer information to the police. One such situation is the legal requirement imposed by the Road Traffic Act 1988. This allows the police, under certain circumstances, to require information from anyone, including doctors, which may lead to the identification of a driver alleged to have committed a road traffic offence. In fact, under the Act, it is an offence to fail to comply with the requirement.
'The GMC expects you to disclose information if required by law but only information relevant to the request and only in the way required by the law. Paragraph 88 of the GMC’s Confidentiality guidance states that you should also 'tell patients about such disclosures, wherever practicable, unless it would undermine the purpose of the disclosure to do so.'
In this situation, the GP was advised of her legal obligation to provide information (usually name and address) to the police to identify the driver. We also advised the GP to make a record of the conversation with the police, noting what information was disclosed and why.'
The Princess Royal Training Awards
The Princess Royal Training Awards recognise employers who have created outstanding training and development programmes which have resulted in exceptional commercial benefits. The awards are delivered by the City & Guilds Group. Forty businesses, including the MDU, achieved the Princess Royal Training Awards standard in 2017.
Dr Caroline Fryar from the MDU receives the award from Princess Anne
Speaking about this year’s winners City & Guilds Group chief executive Chris Jones said: ‘From household brands to leading charities, employers of all sizes across the UK are seeing real and tangible benefits of training and developing their people. The Princess Royal Training Awards provide both recognition and the opportunity to share best practice and its impact. I congratulate the 40 successful organisations who presented their evidence and achieved the standard required by the Award in 2017. They are worthy recipients of this prestigious and rigorous royal award and we are delighted to be able to deliver it through the City & Guilds Group.'