Tanja Satterthwaite, Consultant Paediatrician and Independent Expert Witness at Carter Brown, part of Antser, recently sat down with us to share the experiences that have motivated her to support better outcomes at Carter Brown for the last year.
What is your role at Carter Brown and how long have you been part of the Carter Brown team of Independent Experts?
“I am an Independent Expert Witness Paediatrician for Carter Brown. I started this role in December 2020. I also have two other roles, including my job as a Consultant Paediatrician where most of my time is spent within the NHS and an advisory role within NHS England.” – said Tanja.
What made you choose Carter Brown?
Tanja said: “In November 2020, I decided that I wanted to have a little bit more flexibility in my work. I wanted to reduce my NHS hours and I explored medical legal work. I completed my Masters in Ethics and Healthcare Law several years ago, so I have always been interested in the legal aspect of the paediatric job.”
“I was looking for an agency and I came across Carter Brown, which seemed really interesting. I spoke with the Recruitment Manager who was brilliant, and as soon as I started – I loved it!”
“I feel well supported in my role and the organisation is really helpful. In addition to providing my expertise, I have been learning enormously from the team at Carter Brown.”
Could you provide us with a broader definition of the types of assessments/categories of assessments that you complete?
Tanja said: “In my role as a Paediatrician for Carter Brown, I provide general paediatric assessments and reports, developmental assessments, assessments where neurodisability expertise is required and assessments with questions related to neglect, abuse, non-accidental injury work. ”
Tanja added: “I frequently provide reports for both family and criminal courts. I enjoy doing reports for family courts as I find them more challenging and more interesting. I do both paper assessments as well as face to face assessments of the children. The work is very varied.”
What is the main driver in your line of work? (i.e. protecting children, keeping families together).
Tanja said: “As a Paediatrician, my focus has always been on the child’s health, safety and wellbeing. The key driver for me is to keep children and young people safe.”
“When children are born into certain circumstances, including to parents who have poor parenting ability, chaotic lifestyle, misuse drugs or alcohol, have mental health difficulties, or have been known to have previously neglected their children’s needs, for example, this means that the children don’t get what they need to thrive or achieve their full potential in life. This is a main driver for my work and always has been.
The other aspect that drives me is that I find that medico legal work keeps me on my toes – it is challenging and interesting. Within Paediatrics, there are such a broad range of conditions and difficulties that the children may present with, so this aspect of work allows me to continually work on updating my knowledge and skills.”
What is the most challenging aspect of being an Independent Expert?
Tanja shared: “One of the most challenging aspects, for me, is limited information I sometimes receive initially from solicitors. ”
“Sometimes you agree to do the case, but then, as you dig deeper, you may find that you are not the best person to tackle that particular case, as the case and the questions asked may be heavily focussed on certain Paediatric subspecialties.
Tanja added: “I have occasionally found the amount of the material and the presentation of the documents to be challenging. There can be a lot of paperwork, it is really essential that you read every page of the documents provided because you may miss crucial bits of information.”
Could you give us a few examples of positive outcomes from cases you’ve been involved in (within Carter Brown)?
Tanja said: “Given that I started with medico-legal work just over a year ago, and these cases frequently take a long time to complete, I have not frequently received feedback about what happened at the end of the cases I was involved with. I however have received letters from solicitors thanking me for the clarity and views within the reports I’d provided which I hope had shed new light on a complex case.”
“For example, there was a case I was working on where a teenager had a significant and life limiting medical condition and unfortunately, their parents had alcohol dependency issues. The view from the services was that the parent was not engaging with the healthcare services. However, due to the parent’s alcohol dependency, they were not able to fully engage.”
“As a Paediatrician, putting forward a different perspective, in this case, was very important. The understanding, in the end, was that actually, supporting this teenager has to be accompanied by a real effort to support the parent too.”
Do you have any advice that you would share with other Independent Expert colleagues that want to join the Carter Brown service?
Tanja shared: “I think medico-legal work is very interesting and challenging at the same time. It allows for lots of ongoing learning but also you see the real contribution you are able to make.”
“My advice would be for people to give this line of work a try. Being clear about your competencies and not giving advice when you know you are not the best person for it is very important. You can always recommend a different specialist who is better placed to give advice than you.”
Explore our opportunities to join our team of Independent Expert Witnesses here.