Hoping to head off ‘witch hunt’ commentators and silent but disgruntled medics I sense may be lurking. Valerie Murphy has had numerous opportunities to ‘do the right thing’ over the last four and a half years. Right things and responsibilities. Below is a list of suggested right things based on my observations and experience of the GMC process.
(a) The early days
- Say sorry. Your actions may or may not have contributed to what happened but just say sorry. Someone has died. [As a bit of an aside, a key thread running through this interminable process has been the importance of demonstrating remorse and insight. This can only start with with a genuine apology.]
- Welcome a full and frank investigation into what happened and contribute to it openly and honestly.
- Scrutinise your professional practice and involve a range of colleagues and others to help think through and understand what happened and why, and how it might be avoided in the future.
(b) Across the investigatory process
- Avoid trying to cast blame elsewhere.
- Be transparent, open and honest. Don’t, for example, ‘save’ information like an earlier death to share in a particular setting at a particular time.
- You have a set of duties to adhere to. Try not to get sucked into shite practices that may be demonstrated by the Trust executive board or others.
(c) Interactions with your counsel
- Instruct your barrister to treat everyone involved with respect and sensitivity.
- Take ownership of your position and role in the investigatory process. If, for example, your barrister begins to ask unnecessary or distressing questions of a witness, tap her on the arm and close it down.
- If something in the evidence upsets you, try and suck it up. The process should enable embellishments and more to be exposed. You don’t need to have your upset recorded.
During the tribunal
- If particular issues or concerns with your professional practice are highlighted, work out appropriate ways to demonstrate you’ve improved them. Ask for help if you are unsure how to approach this.
- Try, as much as is humanly possible, to turn up to every day of the hearing.
- Think carefully about who you ask to be a character witness and make sure they are properly briefed about the importance of this and what is expected of them.
A final reflection is the professional arrogance medics can exhibit. I witnessed this on twitter this week when a discussion effectively ended with non-NHS commentators being dismissed as ‘armchair critics who wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the NHS’. I don’t know at what stage in the education or experience of being a medic this arrogance kicks in (I ain’t a medic). But I do wonder if a glug or two of humility is a good tonic every so often.