Last month new guidance was published for all healthcare professionals who act as expert witnesses titled “Acting as an expert or professional witness – Guidance for healthcare professionals”.
While the guidance was published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges it has also been endorsed by the majority of healthcare professional organisations in the UK including the College of Paramedics.
This guidance sets out the standards and conduct expected of all healthcare professions acting as an expert witness in the UK. Please click here to see the full guidance.
Key undertakings include:
- Experts must hold the appropriate licence to practise/registration and be in, or sufficiently recently in, practice.
- Experts need to have the necessary clinical knowledge, training and experience to act as an expert witness.
- Expert witness work should now be part of their professional revalidation or continuous professional development (CPD) process.
- Experts are now expected to undertake specific training for being an expert witness as well as keeping up to date with appropriate refresher courses or other activities.
- Experts must undertake and demonstrate appropriate activity relevant to both their clinical expertise and legal aspects of the expert witness role as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) and this should form part of their annual appraisal.
As voluntary professional bodies, the Academy, the Colleges and other professional bodies are not in a position to regulate or enforce compliance with this new guidance. However, any healthcare professional acting as an expert witness who fails to meet the standards set out in this guidance is now "not considered to be meeting the expectations or demonstrating the values of their profession". Furthermore, the Health and Care Professions Council have confirmed that the advice set out in this guidance is consistent with their standards and guidance.
Paramedics who act as an expert witness must be fully aware of their duties to the court and it is expected that these are properly understood and followed.
What does this mean for members of the College of Paramedics who act as experts?
It has always been the case that Paramedics that act as experts should have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to act as an expert witness. However, it is the first time that there has been guidance that Paramedics, who undertake or are looking to undertake expert witness work, are now expected to attend specific expert witness training (report writing, courtroom skills and law, evidence and procedure) and be kept up to date on a regular basis.