An interview with: Simon Prangnell Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist & Independent Expert at Carter Brown

What is your role at Carter Brown and how long have you been part of the Carter Brown team of Independent Experts?

Since 2017, I have been an Expert Witness at Carter Brown and a consultant clinical neuropsychologist. My role primarily involves carrying out specialist neuropsychological, cognitive, and capacity assessments.”

What made you choose Carter Brown?

Simon said: “At that stage in my career, I was looking to develop my private practice, and I saw one of Carter Brown’s adverts in The Psychologist (a monthly publication of The British Psychological Society). After doing some additional reading I thought it would be a good opportunity and a step forward for me as a clinical neuropsychologist. 

Being relatively new to the field, one of the things that appealed to me was the support Carter Brown offered in terms of getting referrals and passing on referrals from solicitors. Another thing that appealed to me was Carter Brown’s offering in terms of managing the administrative processes associated with this type of work, for example, dealing with all the papers and processing all the invoices. The advantage of having all of the extra support around you meant it was easier for me as an Expert Witness to focus all my attention on one case.”

Could you provide us with a broader definition of the types of assessments and categories of assessments that you complete?

 “The main assessments I complete at Carter Brown are mental capacity assessments and cognitive assessments.  

Mental capacity assessments establish whether an individual has the capacity to make decisions about a specific issue. The most common areas I cover are assessing someone’s ability to instruct a solicitor and conduct proceedings, and abilities to make decisions about where somebody lives or the care they are going to receive. 

I also assess an individual’s ability to manage their finances, property affairs, and more specific matters such as consent to treatment, consent to sexual relationships or capacity to make a will or enter a marriage. A lot of these are done in the context of family court proceedings but over the past couple of years, I have conducted more work for the Court of Protection. 

The other assessments I complete are cognitive and neuropsychological assessments, this is largely in the context of family court proceedings. In these types of assessments, I work with people who have had a confirmed or suspected neuropsychological illness. For example, I often work with parents that have learning difficulties, which may not yet have been diagnosed or might have already been diagnosed but the court needs a clearer understanding of how that might affect somebody’s role as a parent and their ability to fully engage in court proceedings.  

In some cases, it is less clear what might have happened so professionals working with the family may have concerns that a parent may have an undiagnosed condition. What a neuropsychologist will then do is assess at the pre-proceedings stage how much of an impact that may have on their parenting abilities.”

What is the main driver in your line of work? (i.e. protecting children, keeping families together).

Simon said: “I think fundamentally, it is trying to ensure that people are given the right level of support to help them function and perform at their best. There are times when someone may have had a severe head injury several years before but because of the context they were living in at the time, they may not have been able to access rehabilitation and so they have never had that opportunity to maximise their independence.”

As a neuropsychologist and Expert Witness, one thing I hope to be able to contribute is a clear understanding of what that person’s needs are but also putting suggestions forward as to what could be put in place to help this person.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an Independent Expert?

Simon shared: “One of the challenges I have faced as an Expert Witness is understanding what services  
(psychological therapies, family support, rehabilitation) are available in different areas across the country. For example, a particular service in one area (e.g., a Community Head Injury Service) might not be available in another area and we would then have to be creative and think of alternative ways to deliver that service.

Could you give us a few examples of positive outcomes from cases you’ve been involved in (within Carter Brown)? 

One case that stands out was around a parent who had suffered from a head injury in their late teens.  At the time of the injury, they could not fully engage with the rehabilitation service provided to them and it became apparent that their ex-partner had prevented them from doing so. However, being able to provide an assessment and outline a support package for them ten years down the line is a great feeling.

He continued: “I had another case where an individual suffered a head injury and was assessed for capacity issues. In this, they were asked questions to see whether they had the capacity to make decisions and the results revealed that they lacked this ability. One thing that stood out to me about the original assessment was that there hadn’t been very much collaboration with the individual. One thing I hope my assessment was able to achieve was allowing the individual to be much more involved in the decision-making process. Even if someone lacks capacity, they still should be involved in every step of the decisions being made. 

For me, being able to identify any individual’s unmet needs and put a support plan together for them is always the best outcome.”

Do you have any advice that you would share with other Independent Expert colleagues that want to join the Carter Brown service? 

“If you’re new to working as an Independent Expert Witness, I think it is good to start off working with Carter Brown, largely because of the added support and training you get. 

I would also advise working within your competence. I think people can sometimes stretch beyond what they are competent to do so don’t feel scared to say if a case that is given to you is out of your expertise.

Explore our opportunities to join our team of Independent Expert Witnesses here.

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We have adapted our working practices following the new COVID-19 national lockdown and rest assured that Carter Brown and our expert team of assessors are still available to support you throughout this difficult time. Although our doors may be closed, we are open for business and willing, ready and able to assist you.