Dr Catherine Wills
Dr Catherine Wills explains how MLAs can help during your time as a medical student and beyond
Around 40 doctors work as medico-legal advisers at the MDU. We are all specifically trained to excel at medico-legal work and between us we have hundreds of years of clinical experience across a variety of branches of medicine, including general practice and numerous hospital specialties. As well as having a strong interest in medico-legal matters in general, many of us were attracted to this role after seeing colleagues go through a series of gruelling investigations related to just one incident - what is known as 'multiple jeopardy'.
Having witnessed the hard times doctors can face, we understand the anxiety and stress that come with being under scrutiny and we are committed to providing the sort of expert, supportive help that really makes a difference.
'How may I help you?'
They say variety is the spice of life, and that is certainly true of work as a medico-legal adviser at the MDU. On any one day we could be helping a student prepare for a fitness to practice process that threatens their medical career, offering advice on how to deal with an adverse incident on the ward, helping a member understand how to raise concerns or simply confirming a point of procedure.
At the other end of the scale, a qualified doctor might be facing a disciplinary or criminal investigation relating to the care of a patient, or even an investigation from the GMC. We're there for members at all stages of their careers and no two cases are ever the same.
Many cases are relatively straightforward but some of the medico-legal concerns that can crop up in student life have the potential to impact on your registration once you qualify as a doctor. These might involve your studies - issues surrounding patient consent and confidentiality are common - or they might be related to life away from medicine, such as whether to accept a police caution. Regardless of how serious the issue might be, it's never too soon to ask us for help.
Always on call
A large part of our job is helping to staff the MDU's advice line - the first point of contact for many members who need advice or assistance. It's a 24-hour service so this occasionally means being on-call in the evening or overnight. The MDU receives over 23,000 calls each year, including urgent out-of hours calls from members needing emergency advice.