Legal & Risk accept instructions to represent Health Boards at Coroner’s Inquests. We have a number of highly experienced Solicitors and Legal Executives who can assist in the preparation through to representation at court. Should you wish to discuss a specific issue, please contact your allocated team leader:
Sarah Watt - Cardiff & Vale University Health Board and Velindre NHS Trust
Vanessa Llewellyn - Cwm Taf University Health Board and Public Health Wales
Fiona Webber - Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board
Alison Walcot - Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
Anne Sparkes - Hywel Dda University Health Board and Powys Teaching Health Board
Following the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, the number of Inquests following deaths in hospitals has greatly increased.
An Inquest is a public forum where highly complex and sensitive material is heard in court. It is also a place where the actions of NHS staff are often subject to a high level of scrutiny which can be a very stressful experience for witnesses.
During an inquest, the environment can become highly charged and appear hostile. Our Staff are experienced in anticipating when this might be and can forewarn and prepare those called to give oral evidence in order to lessen the impact on individual staff.
Good preparation and support is key to alleviating that stress and making the experience more manageable.
Since the appointment of the Chief Coroner, the inquest process has become much more streamlined with Inquests being completed within 6 months or sooner. This puts pressure on Health Boards and Trusts to ensure that incident reviews, recommendations for future care and actions plans are completed in timely fashion which can mitigate criticism and will confirm to the Coroner that lessons have been learned. We can assist in this process by being involved in the investigation process and reviewing documents, to ensure that the information contained therein addresses all of the issues that are likely to be explored in court. Early involvement of our services will allow for optimum preparation.
Where the death of a patient involves more than one Health Board or Trust, we can act for all NHS bodies involved where no conflict of interest exists.
We can attend pre-inquest reviews, if required, and can make submissions to the court on legal points such as
Factual witness evidence is crucial to the Coronial investigation. We can help you to prepare witness statements and review them to ensure they are in the correct format for the Court. We will provide continuity and support to witnesses by ensuring that each stage of the process is dealt with by the same lawyer. We meet with witnesses before the inquest in order to provide insight into the coronial process and to give them the opportunity to ask questions with the intention of allaying any fears they might have. It is important to reduce the stress levels of a witness as far as possible so that they can concentrate on giving evidence.
Well prepared witness statements can sometimes obviate the need for a witness to attend court.
We can advise Health Boards and Trusts on whether or not it will be necessary to have legal representation at an inquest.
Should our attendance be required, we shall ensure that we represent our clients in the best possible way. We are able to draft submissions to the court on legal points such as:
Where necessary, we will advise Health Boards and Trusts on whether to instruct a barrister to represent them in court.
Following an Inquest, we provide follow up to our clients on:
We can also act on behalf of the Organisation in any subsequent clinical negligence matter arising out of the same set of circumstances.
It is not uncommon for members of the media, national and local, to attend inquests as a matter of course. In high profile cases this can at times give rise to adverse publicity. The team at Legal & Risk are experienced in supporting staff and the communications team throughout the process.
It is not unknown for there to be some involvement with the Police, the Health & Safety Executive, the Solicitor acting on behalf of the family, or family members themselves. We can liaise with each of these Parties on behalf of the Health Board.
The team can offer bespoke training at our well equipped offices or at a place to suit your needs and can range from a short discussion to a full training day. This can be training your Staff on Witness Statements to generally preparing for an Inquest. More information can be found here.