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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs need more training to spot patient abuse

Doctors are

no longer automatically excused from

jury service, and a long stint on a jury can be a costly experience ­ practice manager Rachel Stark looks at the new regulations and their implications

From now on the jury may well include a GP. Abolishing the automatic exclusion of doctors from jury service is part of Government policy to expand the pool of potential jurors, ensuring that juries reflect their communities. So if you have been summoned for jury service, you are under a legal obligation to be a juror.

If called, you will receive a summons that provides information on when and where you will serve. You will receive contact details for the Jury Central Summoning Bureau which will help with any queries you have. The form also includes a reply slip that must be returned within seven days of receipt.

Jury service usually lasts for up to two weeks but you may be required to serve for longer. If your case is likely to last more than two weeks the judge will usually advise you of this before you are sworn in. If you are unable to sit for longer than two weeks you should explain your reasons. The judge will decide whether or not you will serve on that trial. The judge's decision is final.

Eligibility

You are eligible for jury service if you are between 18 and 70 years old, are on the electoral role and have lived in the UK for at least five years.

If you cannot serve at the time for which you are summoned you must apply, giving clear reasons, to the bureau and ask to be deferred to a later date or excused from jury service altogether.

You must also state what other days during the next 12 months you will not be able to attend. If your application is granted, the bureau will try to rearrange your service for a more convenient date.

Most applications for deferral are granted, but if not you can appeal to the head of the bureau. However, deferral can only be granted once, so you must make sure you include all future dates to avoid. Jury service can only be deferred once up to a maximum of 12 months from the original date.

Request to be excused

In certain circumstances you can apply to be excused from jury service, for instance if you have attended to serve on a jury during the last two years.

Also, if you are called but believe that you should not serve at any time during the next 12 months you must clearly state your reasons in full and provide evidence when replying to your summons. A jury officer at the bureau will make a decision whether you can be excused based on the details given.

However, applications to be excused will only be considered for exceptional circumstances. In all other circumstances, deferral will be offered as far as is possible. To date a number of GPs have been granted excusal from jury service but this has been more successful when patient care has been jeopardised, for example:

·The GP is already struggling with his/her workload and continuity of care would be further reduced by their absence.

·There are a small number of GPs in the practice ­ or other GPs in the practice are already stretched and so workload cannot easily be redistributed.

·Recruiting locums to cover the GP's absence is difficult due to poor locum availability.

·GPs undertake additional work outside of their usual role ­ and they are the only person able to perform that work ­ for example, GPs with special interests.

If you apply to have your jury service deferred or to be excused, you will receive confirmation of whether your application has been granted within 10 days of sending your reply to the summons.

If you are refused excusal you have the right of appeal and should put your appeal in writing to the head of the bureau.

Remuneration

If you serve on a jury you can claim for:

Loss of earnings/benefits

Self-employed: You need to provide evidence of lost earnings. A letter from your accountant, for example, would be appropriate. But before producing the evidence, get advice from the court office.

Employed: Your employer must fill in the Certificate of Loss of Earnings, including whether or not you may return to work on the days or half-days that you are not required at court.

Travelling expenses

The cost of a return journey between your home and the court:

·Standard return fare for public transport

·A standard mileage allowance (and sometimes parking) if travelling by car.

·In an emergency the court may pay for a taxi.

A subsistence allowance

A fixed amount, depending on how long you are away from home, to cover food and drink.

An allowance for other financial loss

On submission of evidence, fees will be granted for other payments you have to make solely because of jury service ­ for example childcare.

To check the rates payable to jurors visit Her Majesty's Court Service at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk

Rachel Stark is manager of the New East Quay Medical Centre, Bridgwater, Somerset

What you can claim for when on jury service

·Loss of earnings/benefits

Day of service Ã4 hours a day >4 hours a day

Day 1-10 £28.48 per day £56.96 per day

Day 11-200 £56.96 per day £113.93 per day

Day 201 onwards £100.00 per day £200.00 per day

·Travelling expenses

Car 27.3p per mile

(if no public transport available

41.5p per mile)

2p per mile for second passenger,

1p per mile for each further

additional passenger

Motorbike 27.3p per mile

(if no public transport available

29.1p per mile)

Bike 6.5p per mile

Public transport Cost of standard class ticket

·Subsistence allowance

£5 for up to 10 hours a day

£10.67 for more than 10 hours a day

·No payment is made to third parties such as employers.

·Payment will be made direct into a bank account approximately 10 days after submission of the claim.

·The total amount the court can pay cannot be more than the maximum allowance. Therefore a GP on jury service for two weeks for more than four hours a day would receive reimbursement for their time of £570. Employing a locum to cover this would cost the practice about £4,000. This means GPs need to fund £3,430 of the locum cost themselves.

·The professional organisations and LMCs are pressing for an increased allowance to ensure adequate reimbursement. In the meantime GPs and practices should consider ways to protect themselves against the financial risk jury service poses.

·Insurance for covering expenses while undertaking jury service is now available. The Medical Insurance Advisory Bureau offers cover in its locum policy. The policy pays £250 per day for a maximum of 60 days with an initial deferred period of four days. This is at a cost of £24 per annum.

·For more details contact Robert Lynch, National Healthcare Manager, The Medical Insurance Advisory Bureau, Dorchester House, Station Road, Letchworth, Herts SG6 3AW. Tel: 0800 587 3589

Contact

If you have any queries about jury service contact:

Jury Central Summoning Bureau

The Court Service

FREEPOST LON 19669

Pocock Street,

London

SE1 OYG

Telephone: 0845 3555567 (local rate)

E-mail: jurysummoning@courtservice.gsi.gov.uk

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