The number and complexity of inquests involving hospitals and other healthcare providers has increased hugely in recent years. Some NHS trusts have experienced a fourfold increase.
Hearings that used to take a morning can now stretch into days and sometimes even weeks. This often has a massive impact on the staff and resources of the organisation involved.
It is inevitably a worrying time, particularly if care has not gone to plan. There are often parallel processes, such as serious incident investigations, complaints, claims, and sometimes employment and regulatory matters. Occasionally the police will be involved. Then there's the public hearing itself, often in the glare of local or national media.
Knowing when to seek specialist legal advice is vital. Weightmans has an extremely experienced team of inquest lawyers regularly representing healthcare organisations at inquests across the country. It includes an assistant deputy coroner, a former hospital doctor and specialist regulatory lawyers.
We advise on all aspects of the inquest process, from reviewing evidence to ascertain whether legal representation is required at the hearing, to representing NHS trusts in front of juries at Article 2 inquests lasting weeks. Equally, if we think it is safe for you to 'go it alone' and preserve limited resources, we will tell you so.
Our strategies include drafting witness statements and advising on risk management processes, with the aim of avoiding the rule 43 letters coroners must write if they think ongoing risks pose a threat to future lives. We also assist on media handling.
The right advice, at the right time, can minimise the impact of the inquest process on your organisation and its staff. By working with you to carefully manage inquests, we can help you boost staff morale, minimise absence rates during and after the inquest process, and conclude matters as smoothly and efficiently as possible.