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Why I chose… Medico-legal advice

Dr Wendy Pugh explains why she decided to deal with GPs’ negligence worries

Name:Wendy Pugh

Title: Medicolegal adviser

Employer: MDU

Background

I qualified as a GP in 1981 and went into partnership for 14 years.  Then I took a career break, and continued to work on a locum basis.

I had always had an interest in the law, partly through working as a forensic medical examiner, and took the postgraduate diploma in legal studies in 2004. I joined the MDU in 2006, because it was the perfect opportunity to combine medicine and the law in one go.

For me it was a positive move to extend my career into an area that I’d always been interested in; it’s not like I was disillusioned with general practice. The fact that I could work based from home for the MDU also appealed to me too.

Although I had studied the law, you don’t have to have a law qualification to work at the MDU, though you do need to be a registered medical practitioner.

What I do

My core work is offering support to doctors, nurses and practice managers, either on the phone through our advice line, or through correspondence with members for whom we have opened files on specific issues. Each day I do two sessions, with some sessions on the phone advice line, and the rest of the time spent on file work. We provide a 24-hour advice line.

Working on the advice line is great, you never know what you’re going to be asked. A lot of it involves knowledge along with common sense and knowing your boundaries. The file work ranges from giving advice – for example, on confidentiality – right through to a file that starts as a complaint and then involves other bodies such as the coroner, and GMC. It is not our role to judge what people have done but to try and help them.

I also provide external educational sessions, such as lectures to students or at national conferences, and often incorporate risk management advice.

Why this work?

The positive things about the role for me are, first, supporting and helping colleagues using my medical knowledge and the broader skills I have learned. It is also rewarding being able to educate colleagues about risk management and, ultimately, to benefit patients by promoting safer practice.

Advantages

MLAs have excellent access to CPD, although our arrangements are slightly different – for example we get member feedback rather than patient feedback. If you did wish to return to general practice after doing this role, it would be possible.

Overall GPs are well-equipped to take on this role and it is very rewarding.

Challenges

It’s always challenging to represent a doctor at a meeting or a hearing, it’s something that you won’t have done in your role as a GP.

It’s sometimes a challenge to go out and lecture other doctors if you haven’t previously had a role in education.

You also need to give due consideration to the advice you are offering and learn to communicate effectively through correspondence with members, but having experience as a GP has helped me meet these challenges.

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