Preparing a witness statement

A medical student was asked by the police to submit a written witness statement in relation to an allegation of sexual assault a patient has made against a hospital consultant. The student was present at the consultation during which the assault was alleged to have taken place. She called the MDU for advice on what to include in the statement. 

MDU advice

The MDU adviser discussed the case with the student. The first thing to establish, the adviser explained, was whether the patient had given consent for disclosure of confidential information about the consultation. The student was under the same duty of confidentiality as a doctor. She would therefore need to ask the police to provide the patient's written consent to disclosure. 

Once the student was satisfied that consent had been obtained, she could provide a written account of what happened. Her statement should be a factual, accurate account, in chronological order, of what happened. The statement should not include any personal comments or opinions or offer information about anything other than the consultation in question. 

When reporting what was said between doctor and patient, the student would need to make clear whether she was quoting verbatim, or if she was giving her recollection of the sort of words that were used. Similarly, any description of the actions of the patient and doctor should accurately reflect what she had observed, and she should make it clear whether she was relying on memory alone. 

Before submitting the statement, the student should make a final check that it was factual, truthful and accurate, and that she would be prepared to stand by it in future. The MDU adviser also reviewed and commented on the statement before it was submitted.

This guidance was correct at publication 12/12/2014. It 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.

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