Improving how we support witnesses

Witnesses are a vital part of fitness to practise cases. But we know from feedback that the experience can sometimes be time consuming and stressful. So we’ve worked with the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) to improve how we support witnesses throughout the process.

In 2017 we surveyed healthcare professionals and public witnesses about their experiences. We found a number of recurring areas of concern, including inconsistent communications, disruption to lives and work, and feeling unprepared and unsupported in what can be an intimidating experience. We also heard that calling doctors to give evidence can impact both the individual and delivery of patient care.

To address these concerns we’ve made improvements including:

Initial contact and statements

  • Every witness now has a named and easily-accessible point of contact. We regularly assess the needs of each witness and provide timely updates by their preferred means of communication.
  • We’ve improved how we take statements from witnesses to make the process simpler and quicker.
  • We’ve invested in new training and skills development for our members of staff who work with and support witnesses.

Keeping witnesses up to date

  • We’ve made changes to how we manage cases to give witnesses more clarity and certainty about the progress of their case. And we can tell them sooner whether they’ll need to give evidence to the MPTS.
  • We’ve improved our Help for witnesses information, making it clearer, more empathetic and accessible. 

At tribunal hearings 

  • We’ve worked with MPTS to improve the hearing centre facilities: we’ve created a dedicated witness room with workspace for those giving evidence and we’ve refurbished the general waiting area. Both have been designed to create a more relaxed space.  
  • We’re providing certainty sooner on date and time of attendance and making less use of ‘standby’, so witnesses aren’t kept waiting around just in case they’re needed to give evidence. 
  • We’ve increased how often we apply for a witness to give evidence by video-link, not only during the pandemic and as a permanent option for witnesses.

Support

  • The Independent Support Service is available to all witnesses, including healthcare professionals who might need to speak confidentially to an independent supporter during or after their experience. 

We hope these changes will result in a better experience for all witnesses. To monitor this, we now routinely ask witnesses for feedback at the end of the process. 

If you have any questions or comments on this project or feedback on your experiences as a witness, please contact your Employer Liaison Adviser.