World of Irish Nursing & Midwifery May 2019

LEGAL Focus 25

Records: Additionally, prior to complet- ing any statement which refers to your practice, you are entitled to have access to all relevant records relating to your prac- tice. For example, it you are asked to give an account of your care of an individual patient, it is essential that you have access to, and consider, the records of care which you completed, and indeed the records of others which may be relevant to your care, so that you can use these in formulating your response. Advice: It is important once you have all the relevant information, and once you have gathered your thoughts and commit- ted them to writing, that you seek advice prior to the submission of a statement or account of events. Every occasion where a registered pro- fessional has been asked to provide a formal account of their behaviour outside the normal recording of clinical practice is a notable event. Notable events can have unexpected consequences. It is not unu- sual that a set of circumstances which are initially thought to be quite benign and capable of being managed locally, can in turn give rise to a formal investigation. There can be investigations outside the employment such as by the Gardaí, and it is not uncommon for such processes to lead to complaints to the NMBI under its fitness to practise regime. Therefore, given the notable event of being asked to provide a formal account of one’s behaviour, it is inadvisable to provide that account without seeking professional advice from the INMO. Your INMO official can advise you in relation to the tone, con- tent and format of a statement, and can often identify gaps or issues which could injure your best interests if the document was submitted in an unedited format. The role of an INMO official is not to tell your story; they are there to ensure that when you are telling your story, that you do so in a way that best defends your best interests. Aside from the general advice above, a number of points which you should bear in mind when preparing your statement are outlined in the Table. Conclusion Incident forms and statements of events are often the first formal account of what has occurred in the workplace, apart from what you have recorded in a patient’s notes. In that context these documents are extremely valuable in defending your best interests in the future, however, if improp- erly prepared, they can also injure your

Writing a statement: Important points to bear in mind • Always ensure that you have copies of all the relevant documentation available to you, including a record of any complaint if this is relevant, and including all care records • When writing a statement, it should be as factual as possible. Unless specifically called for, and unless you are qualified to provide them, refrain from providing opinions in your statement • In almost all circumstances, a statement should proceed in a chronological order, and should be a structured account of events from the commencement to the conclusion of the sequence of events • It is important to be as accurate as possible and to include detailed information, such as the day, date, the time, where something occurred, the context in which it occurred, an explanation of the effect of events, and any particularly notable occurrences during the sequence of events. It is quite common for nurses and midwives to be cross examined during a fitness to practise inquiry in relation to a previous statement, where they have omitted important detail, therefore this is an opportunity for you to tell your story as close to the events as possible, and you must tell the full story • If there are others who have witnessed the event, these should be identified in the statement • When writing the statement use professional language, avoid undue emotion, and present yourself in your written word as you would want people to view you and that is as a professional • Where you are dealing with clinical issues, then clinical detail is extremely important, use professional and appropriate language to refer to clinical matters, and ensure that you give a full account of your reasoning for your actions in a clinical context • If the subject matter of the statement is of an embarrassing nature, then the embarrassment must be set aside, and you must provide the full detail. Notwithstanding any level of embarrassment, you will injure your best interests if you do not provide a full account of events in your statement • In the event that you do not recall something having occurred, then you should state that you do not recall it. However, language is important, and it is essential that you understand the distinction between saying that you cannot remember something occurring, or when something did not occur. If you say that something did not occur, that is a definite statement, if you state that you cannot recall, then it may or may not have occurred. It is okay to say that you do not recall, as long as that is what you actually mean • In writing the statement, shorter sentences are better. Longer sentences lead to contradiction and unintended qualification, and consequently you should use short, clear and definite statements • Again, always prepare a draft statement, always seek advice from the INMO, and never submit a statement without adequate information, adequate time and adequate advice on your response

completing an incident form and are not sure that you have provided a full account of events, then ensure that you state in the incident form that it is not a full account of events. Additionally, where you are sub- mitting a statement always stop, think, ask questions and seek advice before submit- ting any written account of your practice. Edward Mathews is INMO director of regulation and social policy

best interests. Incident forms which are submitted in the context of risk manage- ment, and statements which are submitted in the context of workplace procedures, often weave their way into multiple forums, including internal inquiries, com- missions of inquiry, coroner’s courts, dignity at work investigations, Garda inves- tigations and fitness to practise inquiries. Therefore, in summary, where you are

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