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First seat in Nottingham's health team

21 December 2012

What does the team do?

The majority of the team’s work is medical negligence litigation on behalf of the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA) or the Medical Protection Society (MPS). We act for NHS Trusts and Clinicians in defending allegations of negligent treatment. The department also carries out inquest work whereby we represent NHS Trusts at inquests. In addition, a few of the fee earners in the department carry on advisory work in relation to mental health issues. This involves advising on issues in relation to mental capacity and issues surrounding providing consent to treatment.

What type of work does a trainee do?

As a trainee in the Health Team I have found that my work is very varied. I have been involved in a wide range of tasks including instructing experts to produce medical reports, drafting witness statements, attending inquests, assisting counsel at a hearing, and attending conferences with counsel. Due to the litigious nature of the work, I have really been able to develop my drafting skills, having been tasked to draft a wide variety of Court documents. I feel that I have been able to gain a real overview of the litigation process, from involvement in the initial stages of a claim in terms of responding to a letter of claim, to being involved in assessing the Claimant’s costs at the conclusion of a claim.

What level of responsibility/hands on experience (i.e. manage your own files etc) does a trainee receive?

The team deals with high value claims whereupon the client has stringent requirements. Due to the nature of the work, there is not the same level of responsibility as a trainee may have in other seats. However, after only a few weeks in my seat, I was given the opportunity to run my own fixed fee claim with supervision. On the whole, I feel that I am able to work independently, although if I need help I am always able to obtain it. Further, in terms of hands on experience, this is plentiful in this seat. For example, I have attended Court as the sole fee earner present, and been able to contact witnesses, counsel and clients directly. I really feel that the team gets the balance right in terms of the level of responsibility and supervision I receive.

How much client contact does a trainee get?

The Health Team are given a certain level of autonomy with regard to the need to contact the client. Whilst there is the duty to report on a 6 monthly basis and the need to gain approval for offers, admissions etc., the team is not impeded by having to constantly update the client. Despite this, there is still a good level of client contact, even as a trainee. I have had direct contact with trust clients at meetings and have also contacted them through emails and letters. I have attended a hearing with a trust witness for whom I was the main contact on the day. I have also sat with a trust client throughout an inquest in which we were seeking to protect the trust’s position.

What has been the highlight for you in this seat?

There have been many highlights during this seat. However, one which really springs to mind is my involvement in the trial preparation for a matter whereby we represented a trust in terms of an allegation of negligent dentistry received in prison. I was heavy involved in preparing for the hearing from drafting instructions to counsel, summoning witnesses, preparing a schedule of costs, and liaising with our witness. I also attended the hearing to assist counsel. Unfortunately, on the day, the hearing was adjourned due to problems surrounding indemnity of a clinician. Still, I feel that I gained a great experience from preparing for the trial particularly when it comes to case management. There were many last minute tasks which came to light, highlighting how important it is to manage time effectively. I also had an opportunity to see our counsel in action in terms of how she dealt with the last minute indemnity issue. It was a great experience and I hope to have more input with the claim before I leave my seat.