Acting As A Professional Witness In Court

Acting As A Professional Witness In Court

As a professional, you may find yourself called to be a witness in court. Your role is vital to establish the facts of a case. This is clearly something to be taken seriously – and that you might require support with.

If you are due to appear in court and need help then you should contact us immediately. Alternatively, read on for our guide on what to expect.

What is a professional witness? 

A professional witness will be called on to try to explain the facts of a case. This is in contrast to an expert witness who is asked to give an impartial medical opinion based on their expertise (see below). Professionals will usually receive a non-negotiable fee and can attend multiple types of court, such as: 

  • Criminal court 
  • Coroner’s court
  • Civil court
  • Employment meetings 

As a professional witness, you are likely to need to give first hand evidence of the treatment of a patient – explaining notes from their record and offering an explanation of events as you saw them. Patient confidentiality should be protected unless specifically directed by the court. 

How to become a professional witness

In order to become a professional witness, you will be called in by court order. 

While you may not ever need to be a professional witness, it is possible and this is one of the many reasons why it is important to keep accurate records that you can easily access.

What does a professional witness do? 

A professional witness will be questioned by barristers on the facts of a case. You may well find that a simple yes or no answer is fitting and this would be acceptable. You should address all of your answers to a judge, jury or tribunal, whichever is appropriate for your case.

Prepare yourself for questioning that might seem repetitive. Take your time, keep your calm and answer every question as well as you can.

You might be challenged and you could face questions on why treatment was taken and alternatives that were considered, which is why it is important to prepare in advance. You should not be afraid to say when you are not able to answer a question.

What is the difference between an expert witness and a professional witness? 

An expert witness is called on to give impartial advice based on their knowledge and experience. They do not have a direct relationship with the patient or case – they attend in order to help clarify a specialist matter before a judge, jury or tribunal.

An expert witness usually has at least 10 years of experience in their field and can have support and training from the Expert Witness Institute.


For more help and support on legal matters, contact the Dental Defence Society.

Dental Prescription: Guidance On Medication Including Antibiotics

Dental Prescription: Guidance On Medication Including Antibiotics

Issuing a dental prescription is common and, although dentists do not give medicine out as often as a GP, it is still likely that you may need to prescribe medication to your patients. 

So, when you do, here is a best practice guide of what to consider. 

What are the most common medical problems in dentistry? 

It is likely you will need to prescribe multiple drugs for all sorts of medical problems during your time in dentistry, but there are a few that are more likely to crop up than others. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Dental and orofacial pain 
  • Oral infections, including: bacterial infections, fungal infections and viral infections

You might also encounter medical emergencies in your practice. Common health issues include:

  • Allergies
  • Arrhythmias
  • Cardiac Prostheses
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Pregnancy

There are a number of different reactions to a number of these, whether it is sending them to hospital, giving them an essential shot, or changing the drugs. For example, pregnant women can only take certain drugs, it is important to research what you are prescribing to someone who is either pregnant or breast feeding to ensure both mother and baby are safe and well. 

How does a dentist prescribe medicine? 

Patients may have a number of conditions which may require medical help, but they can often be aided with the help of medicine. When writing a prescription, it is important to note the strength and quantity clearly. Abbreviations should be avoided when using units or the name of the drugs, to ensure there is no confusion. Similarly, the dose and frequency should be written down clearly and explained verbally to the patient.  

It is not required by law that a dentist needs to liaise with the patient’s GP when prescribing medicine – although it can sometimes be needed to ensure the correct medicine is being prescribed.

When printing the information, it is important to ensure the date, patient’s details, address etc are all accurate. Similarly, the dentist’s name must be at the bottom of the prescription, and it needs to be signed. Despite being different entities, drug prescribing for dentistry is quite similar to a GP prescribing drugs to their patients. Dentists are only able to prescribe medicines that are available to get on a prescription. Alternatively, you can advise your patients of medicines they do not need a prescription for, and help them find the right place to get them from. Any medicines recommended to a private patient can not be prescribed on an NHS prescription. 

Can dentists prescribe antibiotics?

Dentists have the ability to prescribe antibiotics. In some circumstances, it can be beneficial to use antibiotics, but the dentist is likely to prioritise other medicines first. For example, if your patient is suffering from a dental abscess, the initial pain relief would be painkillers, specifically ibuprofen. However, if the infection spreads, or is more severe, then the dentist may wish to prescribe antibiotics.

Are there any issues with prescribing drugs? 

GPs would usually have all of the details of the patient’s medical history, allowing them to understand what drugs would work and what may cause a reaction. Dentists can only prescribe medicine that would be beneficial to oral health so it is important to try to get a greater understanding of the patient’s broader health.

While it is not essential to liaise with the patient’s GP, it can be a good idea to do so. GPs will be able to advise you on what can be prescribed and what strength the patient will be able to take in order to avoid a problem with any of their other medications. 

A dentist should keep an emergency drugs kit in their office in case a dental emergency occurs in an appointment. These emergency drugs would typically include:

  • Glyceryl trinitrate spray
  • Salbutamol
  • Adrenaline
  • Aspirin
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose
  • Midazolam 
  • Oxygen

As a dentist, you should be prepared for any situation in the dental chair, which is why it is essential to have first aid training, and ideally have at least a qualified first-aid trainer in the practice at all times. Training should be updated yearly to ensure your patients are in safe hands, particularly if a patient would need to be resuscitated on site.

For help and support on how to cater for all circumstances in your practice, contact DDS.