Majority of doctors responding to MDU survey concerned about being criticised

Doctors are concerned about the implications of attending a coroner’s inquest according to a new survey published today by the Medical Defence Union (MDU) to coincide with the latest edition of its journal.

The MDU, the UK’s leading medical defence organisation, surveyed members about their views on coroners’ inquests and 253 doctors responded. The survey found that:

  • 73 per cent were worried about the possibility of being criticised at a coroner's/ procurator fiscal's investigation
  • 61 per cent were unsure as to whether to inform the GMC if they were criticised
  • 72 per cent were apprehensive about the media reporting on the coroner’s/ procurator fiscal's inquest
  • 60 per cent were concerned about the need for legal representation during this time
  • 50 per cent responded that they would feel uncomfortable appearing at a coroner’s/ procurator fiscal's hearing.

Of those responding to the survey, the MDU discovered only 23 per cent of respondents would feel prepared if called to an inquest and 34 per cent would not know what to expect. Additionally, the MDU found that members were most likely to seek advice from their medical defence organisation (50 per cent of all respondents) followed by senior colleagues (25 per cent)  and in the case of hospital doctors, the trust’s legal department (21 per cent).

Dr Ed Nandasoma, medico-legal adviser at the MDU commented:

'Attending a coroner’s inquest or, even providing a report can be a daunting situation for many medical professionals. At the MDU, we offer our members expert guidance, personal support and a robust defence in addressing medico-legal issues. Calling our advice line is free and all calls are treated in confidence.

'We speak to tens of thousands of members every year so we can often pre-empt the kinds of problems that can cause members to worry. Consequently, we encourage them to call for advice and support as early as possible.'

In the latest issue of the MDU journal, a junior doctor also discusses their experience of dealing with an unexpected call to attend a coroner’s inquest. After feeling 'shock, panic and fear' the doctor called the MDU and felt reassured. The member comments:

'The MDU explained the relevant differences and this helped ease my anxiety. They also emphasised that the purpose of inquest proceedings are inquisitorial rather than adversarial. The MDU reassured me that following a suicide, a coroner's inquest is standard procedure.'

You can read more about how the MDU supported the member in dealing with a coroner’s inquest in the spring 2020 issue of the MDU journal

This guidance was correct at publication 16/03/2020. 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.