New guidance has been produced for healthcare professionals by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges on “Acting as an expert or professional witness”.
This document has been endorsed by our College, and the other healthcare professional organisations listed at the end of the document following a recommendation from Sir Norman Williams’s Review of Gross Negligence Manslaughter in Healthcare for the Department of Health and Social Care in England.
This guidance is consistent with our College’s exisiting standards and guidance.
This guidance is aimed specifically at healthcare clinical professionals who provide an expert opinion or act as professional or expert witnesses in courts or tribunals. It is produced by clinical professional organisations and sets out the standards and conduct expected of a clinician acting in the role of a witness.
There are already official Civil Procedure Rules and the Criminal Procedure Rules covering requirements of witnesses. As well as guidance on the duties and responsibilities of expert witnesses (available from expert witness bodies, such as the Academy of Experts, the Expert Witness Institute and also from professional bodies).
There is also a range of training available for expert witnesses. Therefore colleges and professional bodies have not devised specific training in relation to this guidance and would not want to be prescriptive in terms of it. However, they would expect any training for expert witnesses to reflect and incorporate this guidance.
As voluntary professional bodies, the Academy, the Colleges and other professional bodies are not in a position to regulate or enforce compliance with this guidance. However, any healthcare professional acting as a witness who fails to meet the standards set out in the guidance is not considered to be meeting the expectations or demonstrating the values of their profession.
While the guidance arose from a report commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care in England it is intended to apply on a UK wide basis. Although there are differences in the legal systems across the four nations, the principles which should guide healthcare professionals who act as expert witnesses or professional witnesses are the same.