About this event

  • Date and time Wed 12 May 2021 from 7:00pm to 8:05pm
  • Location Online

Register here to join our In Conversation Live with Bertie Leigh

Bertie Leigh, Clinical defence solicitor specialising in Healthcare Litigation, Clinical Negligence, will be joining Professor Roger Kirby, RSM President, to give a legal view on the destructive effect of the attitudes of society on the clinical professions. He believes that the incoherence of our expectations of our NHS threatens the viability of the Service and its workforce.

If the presenting challenge is the crippling effect of COVID-19 on NHS services, this is made far worse because of the contradictions in our demands before the virus arrived. He suggests that healthcare litigation is an equally damaging pathogen, but that the lawyers, the courts and the GMC are simply expressing the attitudes of society. Those attitudes are incoherent and unrealistic because we have created expectations that can only be delivered by an elite workforce, whilst being profoundly hostile to the existence of that elite. When things go well we are romantically unrealistic in our adulation; when disappointed we are bitter and unforgiving. We seek to monetise disappointment and punish those who have let us down. This is demoralising and dispiriting for those on the receiving end.

Bertie argues that our healthcare workforce is expected to manage older and more complicated patients with shorter training in which they have less real experience of continuity of care. The destruction of the clinical firm means they also have less experience of continuity of training. All of this makes it harder for them to recognise sick patients and when they fail we rarely accuse them of manslaughter but regularly take them to the GMC. The pattern of modern medicine we expect demands an elite workforce and yet we are hostile to the existence of that elite. Much of this is creating an unsustainable healthcare service environment, and he believes our attitudes to medicine and the unrealistic expectations we have accumulated will have to be confronted in British society.

More specifically he argues that we also need to clarify the objectives we have set for medicine and set up institutions independent of control from the centre. "In Public Health we need to create an organisation free to pursue objectives to which everyone pays lip service independent of political direction.

Finally, we need to reorientate the NHS with a new charter for general practice."

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Described as ‘the doyen of defendant clinical negligence’, Bertie is currently a Consultant Solicitor at Hempsons where he began his career in 1973 as a trainee. By 1977 he became a Partner of Hempsons, and between 1998-2015 he was the Senior Partner. Bertie has conducted many of the leading cases in clinical negligence and regulatory law over the past 40 years.

Over the course of his career, Bertie has managed more than 5,000 medical cases, almost always acting either for the defence or for a doctor or hospital seeking to protect its position. The core of his practice has been clinical negligence, but he has defended numerous doctors before the GMC, disciplinary and employment tribunals, and the criminal courts.

In 2005, Bertie became a Solicitor Advocate of the High Court, and from 2005-2015 a Trustee of NCEPOD, the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death. He was the Chair of NCEPOD from 2010-2015.

Bertie is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Anaesthetists, and a Fellow ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

He was the President of the Medico Legal Society from 2008-2010, the Chair of the Clinical Disputes Forum from 2009-2018, and a Non-Executive Director of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital from 2016-2019.

Bertie is currently a Board Member and Trustee of the British Orthopaedic Association, a Trustee of The Griffin Trust (medical research and surgical training), a Trustee for Charm (obstetric research charity), and a member of the steering group for Each Baby Counts.

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*There may be slight changes to the advertised start and end times of this webinar, subject to Bertie's work requirements.


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Disclaimer: All views expressed in this webinar are of the speakers themselves and not of the RSM.

The In Conversation Live webinar series will continue our much loved In Conversation events, giving you the opportunity to get first-hand insights into the lives and thoughts of high profile individuals, bringing an intimate, relaxed and entertaining perspective into your living room.    

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This webinar will be recorded and stored by the Royal Society of Medicine and may be distributed in future on various internet channels. 

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