FAQs - expert witness consultations via videoconference - claimants' questions answered

Q      Why am I being offered a videoconference?

A      With the uncertainty COVID-19 presents and with no clear understanding of how long it will take for life to get back to normal, we are keen to ensure we stay “Open for Business” to support both you and your solicitor. We recognise that many of you involved in a medicolegal claim are already anxious about the length of time it can take for the case to reach conclusion. You may well be uncomfortable, in pain or facing a range of financial and social challenges as a result of your health and your anxiety about the case, and we want to play our part to help your solicitor to keep your case moving forward if it’s possible to do so. There is clear evidence that claimants feel much better psychologically and physically when their case ends and they can move on with their life, especially if for example they can undergo treatment they have been waiting for.

We want to help to achieve this by making it as easy as possible for you to meet and discuss your health / injury with our expert to enable them to write their medical report and make it available to your solicitor without unnecessary delays.

Our experts work in leading hospitals and Trusts across the NHS and now more than ever they are being advised in the majority of cases to run their regular clinics and consultations using approved videoconferencing channels wherever possible, as long as it provides the safe clinical setting of a face to face appointment and meets GDPR and ethical guidelines. This helps ensure their patients continue to receive the medical support they need, and the risk of backlogs of work and delays building are avoided. In the current situation it also enables both you and the expert to comply with the directions in place for the COVID-19 crisis and avoid contact using social distancing techniques.

You can also avoid using public transport and can meet with the expert in the stress-free environment of your own home. Both we and your solicitor can continue to remain “Open for Business” and avoid delays to your case using conferencing tools and techniques. Importantly during these unprecedented times, both our experts and you are protected.

However, it is very important that you speak to your solicitor BEFORE you agree to the videoconference and discuss fully whether a videoconference is suitable for your case, including the limitations, if any of a videoconference rather than a face to face consultation with our expert. By attending the videoconference you will be agreeing that you have had this conversation with your solicitor and you are happy to proceed, if you choose not proceed please tell your solicitor and we will be happy to postpone the appointment until the COVID- 19 restrictions are lifted.

 

Q      Are Consultations conducted by Videoconference Recorded?

A      Medical Examinations/Consultations are being conducted remotely by Videoconference for medical consultations conducted from 30 March 2020 until further notice because of the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 virus. If you do not agree to the recording and storage of the consultation you MUST tell your solicitor and NOT attend the consultation.  Your attendance at the conference means your consent is implied for our expert to record the consultation and store it for 6 months post settlement of your case. This complies with the recommendations and requirement of insurance companies and other bodies, that we store the recording for your solicitor to make available to the court if it is requested. If you require further information about the possible use of the recording please speak to your solicitor. The personal/confidential patient information will be safeguarded in the same way as a face to face medical consultation. Recordings will only be released to the instructing solicitor IF the insurer or court requires it to be made available and with your own and your solicitor’s agreement. All requests must be made in writing and are subject to agreement by the expert.

 

Q      Are your experts going to stop providing face to face consultations?

A     Yes, until the Government remove the current COVID-19 restrictions and it is safe to conduct face to face consultations.

 

Q      How reliable is a report without a face to face consultation?

A      Our experts are of the view that there will be no impact on the quality of the report they write for you and the court by working in this way. If, after the videoconference, the expert feels it necessary to examine you in person, they will advise your solicitor and include it as a recommendation in their report. However, there may be a few cases where the expert feels a videoconference consultation is not suitable for you or your case and we will tell you and your solicitor if that is the case and try to find an alternative solution if possible or your consultation can be postponed until the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Your case will be reviewed by the instructed expert in advance to decide whether a videoconference is possible or practical, but limitations may only come to light during the consultation.

 

Q      Will a report written using a videoconference stand up to scrutiny by the court?

A      The report will clearly state the examination has been conducted by videoconference. It will also include any limitations of the consultation or opinion if there are any. Ultimately it is for the court to decide but we usually recommend that a face to face consultation with the medical expert should take place if the case cannot be settled between parties before a case goes to court. Regardless, all reports are written on the premise the case will lead to a court hearing. Your solicitor is the best person to advise you if a teleconference is suitable for your case and you must speak to your solicitor before the videoconference to discuss whether the videoconference is suitable for your case.

 

Q     Are Doctors and Surgeons able to give a medical opinion or advice without having a face to face consultation?

A     NHSX (who are the responsible governance body for NHS England for digital transformation and policy) have encouraged NHS clinicians in England to use videoconferencing for consultations. This link will take you to their website which provides more information

We encourage the use of videoconferencing to carry out consultations with patients and service users. This could help to reduce the spread of COVID 19. It is fine to use video conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose. The consent of the patient or service user is implied by them accepting the invite and entering the consultation. But you should safeguard personal/confidential patient information in the same way you would with any other consultation”.

Increasingly videoconferencing technology is being used by Doctors in England to carry out medical consultations as part of their daily working lives. This link takes you to NHS England and provides more about how videoconferencing is being used by GPs and other clinicians which may be useful information for you.

 

Q      What video conferencing software will you use?

A      Our preference is to use ZOOM software which is very simple to use. A member of our team will speak to you before the videoconference to explain how to use it. You don’t need to be an expert at using technology – we will send you a link to join the conference and all you have to do is to click on the link using a computer, an i-pad or your smartphone. We will answer any questions you have and make sure you are comfortable and happy before the call. When you click on the link you will see the expert on your computer or device, and they will introduce themselves and they will ask you to confirm that you can see and hear them clearly.

 

Q      Is your videoconferencing software GDPR compliant and confidential?

A     YES. The software that we will be using has been confirmed by our Data Protection Officer (DPO) as fully GDPR compliant. The expert will manage your consultation in the same way as a normal face to face consultation in a clinic or at your GP surgery and will take all the usual precautions to protect your confidentiality. Only our expert will attend the consultation and we will ask you to attend the consultation from a quiet and private room in your home or in your solicitor’s office if you prefer.

 

Q      Can I have someone with me at the videoconference?

A      YES, but you must arrange this with your solicitor in advance and your solicitor must give us permission in writing to proceed with the consultation with your authorised chaperone. If their attendance is not pre- approved with us by your solicitor, the consultation cannot proceed with them in attendance and will have to be rearranged.

Your chaperone cannot speak for you or record the consultation, you must speak to the expert yourself (unless they are translating for you and your solicitor has advised us they will be translating for you).

ID checks will be carried out by both parties as happens in a face to face consultation at the start of the conference and so you must be able to show Photo ID in the form of a drivers licence and/or passport and a utility bill showing your name and address (which should be the same as the address on the medical records provided to us by the solicitor). Our expert will ask you to hold these close to your screen so they can be clearly seen and checked. If you do not have these important documents with you the consultation will be immediately terminated because the expert must be able to confirm to the court in their report that they verified your identify. If an approved chaperone attends, they must show their photo ID AT THE START of the videoconference. Again, if this is not available, the videoconference will be terminated or your chaperone will have to leave the consultation.

Our expert will also show you ID and will conduct the videoconference from a secure suitable environment with nobody else present.

 

Q      What support will I receive to be able to use your videoconferencing software?

A      We use ZOOM software which is very simple to use. A member of our team will speak to you before the videoconference to explain how it works. We will send you a link to join the conference either by email or by text, all you need to do is to click on the link at the time of your appointment and you will be given access to the videoconference. The expert will be able to see you via their computer camera and vice versa and will confirm with you that they can clearly see and hear you and ask you to confirm you can see and hear them. At the end of the conference you click on the link again and the conference ends. Please ensure you are available before the call to take a call from our team member to check you can access the link.

 

Q      Do I need a computer, or can I use my smartphone or iPad?

A      You can access the videoconference using a smart phone, tablet, iPad, laptop or computer.

 

Q      What will happen at the videoconference?

A      The expert will confirm their identity and ask you to confirm your identity with a photo ID drivers’ licence and/or passport as well as a utility bill which matches the name and address of where you live which must be the same address you provided to your solicitor. The expert will ask you to confirm the address (preferably your home) where you are taking part in the conference and that you have spoken to your solicitor about the suitability of a videoconference for your case and answer any questions you have in this respect.

If an approved chaperone is attending and this has been agreed BEFORE the videoconference by the solicitor in writing to us, they will also need to provide photo ID in the form of a passport/driver’s licence and they should be visible to the expert throughout the conference.

You may have been asked to complete a questionnaire by us prior to the videoconference and the expert may ask you for more detail or clarification about the answers you provided. The expert will also ask you relevant questions about your case and health. They will write notes during the consultation.

The expert may need to ask you to adjust or remove some of your clothing so that they can see any scarring or alterations in your skin colour on the parts of your body affected by the pain, injury or condition. You should wear suitable loose clothing and be able to remove or adjust it to enable this to happen. It’s a good idea to have a sheet or cover with you to ensure you are able to shield other parts of your body not requiring examination by the expert if you need to remove or adjust your clothing to ensure you feel comfortable during the examination. If you feel uncomfortable about doing this at any point during the examination, please tell the expert and he/she will stop the examination immediately.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call us on 020 7118 0650 or email us on info@medicolegal-partners.com and we will be happy to assist you.