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Bearing good witness: proposals for reforming the delivery of medical expert evidence in family law cases - a consultation

  • Launch date:
    30 October 2006
  • Closing date:
    28 February 2006
  • Creator/s:
    Department of Health
  • Audience:
  • Copyright holder:
  • Gateway number:
  • Outcome published:
    24 July 2007

The Chief Medical Officer's report Bearing Good Witness: Proposals for reforming the delivery of medical expert evidence in family law cases has been launched for a period of public consultation, from 30th October 2006 - 28th February 2007. The report was originally commissioned in 2004 by Ministers Dr Stephen Ladyman MP and Mrs Margaret Hodge MP, in response to some very high profile court cases that called into question the quality of medical expert witnesses in certain types of case.

The report makes 16 proposals.

The key proposal is that the NHS should establish teams of specialist doctors and other professionals within local NHS organisations to improve the quality of the medical expert witness service by introducing mentoring, supervision and peer review. A National Knowledge Service to support the medical expert witness programme is also proposed.

Proposals affecting the NHS will entail developing a new resource for the family courts with the challenges associated with increasing the workforce, modernising roles and regulation, and improving competence through education and training.

At present the costs of medical experts are almost entirely met from public funds, shared between the Legal Services Commission and local authorities. CMO is proposing that the NHS should be fully reimbursed for taking on this additional work, that the funds necessary to develop training packages, to form teams of medical experts and to ensure their availability to the courts should be forthcoming from legal aid sources, and covered by contract or service level agreement with local NHS providers, representing a public investment in the assurance that these services will be available without delay and with the authority that courts require.

We would welcome your views on the CMO's report. A consultation document and questionnaire is attached below. This consultation follows the revised Cabinet Office code of practice which is available from the Cabinet Office website. A statistical survey of attitudes to engaging in medical expert witness activity, which informed the CMO's report, is also available.

  • Contact:
    Noel Durkin
  • Address:
    Partnerships for Children, Families and Maternity
    Department of Health, Rm 211 Wellington House
    133-155 Waterloo Road
    London SE1 8UG
  • Phone:
    Noel Durkin
    020 7972 4152
  • Email:

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