Acting as a professional witness

Being involved in a court case as a professional witness involves reporting the facts of your professional dealings with a patient.

Who can ask you to be a professional witness?

Those who might request you to be a professional witness include:

  • patients
  • patients' representatives, such as solicitors
  • other dental professionals or their representatives
  • the police
  • insurance companies
  • employers
  • the General Dental Council (GDC).

In some circumstances you have the choice whether to comply, while in others you may be legally obliged. For advice on your individual circumstances, please call our dento-legal advice line.

In court

  • If you are served with a court witness summons to appear in court as a professional witness, you are legally obliged to comply with the summons. Contact us to check the court summons has been properly served.
  • Fees for acting as a professional witness for a patient or their solicitor should be agreed in advance, preferably in writing.
  • In court, you will usually attend to give your evidence only, and not to listen to the evidence of other witnesses.

Providing reports

A professional witness has a professional and ethical duty to provide a factual report on any involvement with the patient concerned.

Where reports are requested by the police, or anyone other than the patient or the patient's solicitor with the patient's consent, make sure it's appropriate to disclose the information and consider whether the patient's consent is needed.

See our guide to professional witness dental reports for more on what to include in your report.

Fees

If the report is requested by a patient or their solicitor, you are entitled to seek a reasonable fee for preparing the report.

If the report is requested by police (as a witness statement or in connection with criminal proceedings) there is usually no fee available, although you can claim expenses for attending court.

If you are compelled to give a report as a professional witness, you will usually be paid a standard, non-negotiable fee.

This page was correct at publication on 23/07/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.