Issue 39 October 2021 - Journal - Page 14
does not happen in PI leaving many claims supported
by a report that does not address the material issues.
Often the authors of those reports believe that their
reports are of a good standard and are upset when
they learn that they have failed.
the expert is able to see that focusing on quality gives
all the benefits and none of the burdens of a micromanaged industry. To some this will seem counter intuitive, if experts produce high quality reports then
they will earn less money. Money is happiness isn’t it?
Rewarding an expert for good reports rather than
for producing cheap poor-quality reports is good for
the industry as a whole. Experts need to take the lead
by arranging independent audits, challenging rules
that encourage poor practice and working slower (so
they can say hello to their friends and family).
The claimant should be at the heart of the process, in
management theory the lawyers and the experts
should serve the claimant. As both experts and solicitors cut corners the amount of time that is given to
the claimant decreases. Experts may complain that
the claimants do not understand the purpose of their
report and solicitors that the claimant forgot to mention key facts at the examination. The claimant is confused by a process that involves thousands of letters
but no human being to explain what is going on. As
the system moves to unrepresented claimants with a
computer that says ‘no’, dissatisfaction is likely to increase.
“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging" is good
advice and for experts it means stop chasing targets
that have little or nothing to do with their product.
The expert report is a chance to assist the court by
setting out the facts and giving opinions on the material issues before the court. At its best it is a document that survives unscathed throughout a
prolonged legal process and makes settling the case
straightforward. At its worst it spawns satellite litigation which drags on for years before an unpleasant
outcome befalls the author. Even an expert who is
successful at defending litigation will not describe
themselves as happy.
Justice should not only be done but seen to be done,
without a clear idea of what winning looks like some
claimants will have over optimistic views of the outcome. Some professionals will laugh at the claimant
who values their claim at £1M for a simple RTA but
the judge trying to deal with this claimant will not see
the funny side. Having a complex system is not a
problem whilst there are lawyers to guide a claimant
through the process. I hope that we are at ‘peak law’
because if the systems get any more complex even the
judges will struggle to make sense of it. There is a
need to consolidate laws and guidelines rather create
new ones to fix the problems. Sometimes the simple
and wrong answer is better than the complex but unobtainable one.
The report must stand on its own without clarification or additions and must foresee the way that the
case will go. This is a lot to ask but the best reports are
both robust and fair and these experts are rightfully
proud of their work. Being happy is not difficult, do
something that you enjoy and know that you are
doing a good job. Pride in one’s work along with getting on with other people are two of the main pillars
that make a job worth doing. I have written about
how to achieve these outcomes. My book makes it
clear that writing a great medical expert report is not
easy, because it is a challenge.
Becoming a happy expert.
For many working in PI the concept of happiness is
about as foreign as the idea of having a work-life balance. Weekends increasingly have been sacrificed for
the SLAs that appear to have no useful purpose apart
from keeping MROs in business. The frustration of
an expert is easy to understand when they have provided a report within 72 hours has sat on the lawyer’s
desk for 18 months. Of course the case will now be
urgent and the expert asked if they can get it back by
16.00. For experts with a day job and a family this
may mean cancelling a desirable (but not important)
activity such as seeing their children grow up.
Having professional challenge means keeping learning in that area just ahead of what you know. For
some the enormity of what they do not know is too
much, for others they believe that they already know
everything so there is nothing left to learn. The Art of
PI Medical Report Writing was written for those
humble enough to accept that they have more to
learn who still have the courage to learn more. I hope
that it will offer the PI industry a path towards a future where those working in the PI industry will receive rewards. They should not be distributed equally
but to given on the basis of quality. The alternative is
that the beatings will continue until the morale improves.
Some experts realise that the cumulative weight of
these unreasonable demands causes a growing dissatisfaction with their job. Cutting corners is not the
answer because the reward of doing a good job is then
lost. Getting angry with the claimants or the solicitors
equally robs the expert of the enjoyment that pleasant social exchanges offer. Some will get out but others will continue to work despite their increasing
cynicism as burnout increases the emotional weight
of working. The answer for the PI expert to avoid this
fate is simple, focus on quality.
Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is
on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.
Dr. Burgin can be contacted on
firstname.lastname@example.org and 0845 331 3304
The expert who is able to ignore speed and cost as issues is freed to enjoy the professional challenge in PI
work. At first this feels like yet another target but soon
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