Statements: how to write them
- Understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’: If your employer or agency asks you for a statement, ask them to put their request in writing so that you know exactly what you are being asked to write about.
- Clarify timescales: You should be given reasonable time to prepare your statement and have it checked by the RCN – so check if there is a deadline in place.
- Gather your documents: You have the right to check documents to help you write your statement (for example, medical notes, medication administration records, the off-duty rota, any relevant employer policies covering the issues in question).
- Are you at risk? If your conduct or practice is being questioned, then – provided you were a member at the time of the incident - we will check your statement. Please contact us to make arrangements to have your statement checked before you hand it in. If you are being asked to submit a statement for a Coroner’s Court or Fatal Accident Inquiry, please also see the relevant section below.
Use one of our templates to format your statement:
- Coroner's Court / Fatal Accident Inquiries template
- General statement template for all other situations
Prepare your statement as a typed Word document.
Are you a witness? Please see our section on witness statements below.
Our team recommends the following to help you through the rest of the writing process:
- State the times you were on and off duty on the day/s in question. Check the off-duty rota to be sure.
- Give brief details of the work environment at the time, including your job role, area of responsibility and the number of patients in your care. For example, were you the nurse in charge?
- Be clear about what you did, saw and heard. You have a right to see the clinical records to help you write your statement accurately. If you’re denied access to the records, explain this in your statement and do not attempt to ‘guess’ at what they say.
- Use the first person (i.e. ‘I’). For example, say 'I gave Patient x 500mg of Paracetamol' rather than '500mg of Paracetamol was given'.
- Relate the facts from the beginning and keep them in chronological order, giving precise dates and times. Be consistent in using ‘am’ or ‘pm’ or the 24-hour clock.
- Avoid jargon or official language.
- Explain clinical or healthcare procedures and avoid general statements such as ‘routine observations were made’. If normal procedures were not followed, explain what is normal and why there was a departure from the accepted procedure.
- State what is personal recollection and what can be corroborated as fact with reference to, for example, healthcare records, reports, clinical guidelines or standards.
- Where known, please use full names and job titles of colleagues.
- Always write the subject of an abbreviation or acronym in full the first time you mention it.
- Don’t speculate, elaborate or exaggerate, or use emotional language – you may be called as a witness to give oral evidence based on your statement.
- If you cannot remember something, say so.
- It is acceptable to form a view based on your professional judgement. Document the facts or evidence on which you based your conclusion. Relate how this impacts on patient care or service levels.
- Don’t assume that the reader knows anything of the facts of the case, such as a patient’s medical history, your environment or clinical routines and procedures. Any intelligent lay person should be able to understand the content.
- Avoid giving opinions or making judgements that you cannot support by factual evidence or corroboration; a good phrase to use is “Based on the information available to me at the moment…”
- Hearsay is second-hand, rather than first-hand evidence, for example: ‘I heard Susan say that she had seen Jill give the injection’. It can be admissible in certain legal proceedings, for example a Coroner's Court or Fatal Accident Inquiry, but it must be clear that it is hearsay evidence. Only relate what you were told by another/ others - you have no way of verifying the accuracy of others’ accounts.
- In any summary, recap the main points and avoid adding new information or comments.
- Keep patients’ and relatives’ identities anonymous - for example, use ‘Patient X’ throughout the statement.
- Follow any professional codes NMC Code of Conduct, particularly the section titled ‘Promote professionalism and trust’. Also ensure you’re following your employer’s local policies and confidentiality guidelines.
- Remember that you could be challenged on the content of your account, and your statement could be used in criminal proceedings or disclosed to all parties in a disciplinary or grievance hearing.
List all documents referenced in your statement and, if possible, where to find them
- patient records, notes, and departmental documents
- the relevant Datix/incident report/untoward incident form
- local policies or procedures
- national standards or evidenced based information
- professional codes and guides.
Format your statement
Add page and paragraph numbers. Space your lines and ensure pages have clear wide margins at each side.
Review each paragraph carefully, checking that your statement only communicates exactly what was asked for or required. Look at whether the facts can be evidenced. Check that the facts you provide are clearly and objectively explained.
Remember: if you feel your practice or conduct is under investigation, call us for advice.
Keep a copy
Always keep a copy of your statement for future reference. Ideally, keep a photocopy/scanned copy of your signed statement as an exact record of what you have submitted.
If any oral evidence you are asked to give at a later date is significantly different from your written statement, this might affect your credibility.
You’re under investigation
You could be asked for a statement following an adverse incident at work that you were directly involved in. For example, you may have administered the wrong dosage of medication to a patient, or you’ve been accused of unprofessional behaviour.
If your conduct or practice is being questioned, then - provided you were a member at the time of the incident - we will check your statement for you. Use our template then please contact us or complete our online form to discuss arrangements for checking your statement before you hand it in.Read more about discipline, grievance and being a witness.
If you are asked to provide a statement for an inquest or Coroner’s court check your employer’s policy. You may be required to talk to management, or your employer’s solicitor, before speaking to the Coroner’s Office/officer. The policy should outline whether your employer will arrange representation for you to avoid incriminating yourself.
If there is a risk:
- of you being prosecuted in connection with a death,
- you may have contributed in some way to the death, or
- you are concerned your practice might be criticised,
We expect an employer to represent its employees at an inquest. However, in certain exceptional circumstances, we may provide support where:
- there is a clear conflict of interest between the member and other staff involved in the patient’s care (such as doctors or other healthcare professionals), where it would be difficult for the employer’s lawyer/s to represent all staff as well as the employer
- the employer is refusing to represent you, and we cannot persuade the employer otherwise (this includes if you are a witness).
If you are being asked to write a statement as a witness, please see our witness section below.
Civil and criminal proceedings
An employer may receive a complaint and request a statement about an incident which could result in a civil or criminal claim. This could include, for example, loss of property, personal injury or death following treatment. If you have been asked to prepare a statement in connection with any potential litigation/legal action (such as a medical negligence claim) against you or your employer, call us for advice before you submit your statement.
Police statement in criminal proceedings
It can be very frightening to be questioned by the police. If you are a suspect (for example, the police say that they will be interviewing you under caution) you should not answer questions or submit any statement until you have legal support.
If the incident is work-related, call us as soon as you can. If this is not possible (or the incident isn’t connected to your work) you must seek the support of the duty solicitor at the police station.
Read our advice on police interviews.
If you have been asked to prepare a statement regarding an alleged criminal act carried out by another/ others, then assess the risk to yourself before you submit a statement. If you are concerned, contact us.
A note on cautions
Do not accept a police warning or caution before talking to an RCN legal adviser or duty solicitor. If you are receiving support from a duty solicitor, please also ask them about the possible implications for your registration.
Read more about cautions in our advice about police interviews.
You could be asked to make a statement as an independent bystander or as a healthcare professional. For example, you may have witnessed bullying or poor practice. This could lead to formal proceedings against someone else and you may be required to attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing as a witness.
If there is no risk to you, we do not represent members attending a hearing as a witness, nor do we check statements before you give it to your employer. You should prepare your statement in line with this guidance and use our template (see above).
Witness statement for the Coroners' court
If you have been asked to submit a witness statement for Coroners’ court, your employers’ legal team should be supporting you. If you are concerned that your practice will be questioned or your employers’ legal team is not supporting you, please contact us or complete our online form for your statement to be checked.
Sometimes your statement will be prepared by someone else in your workplace, for you to sign. This might have been prepared as a result of a meeting with you or by your manager.
If you disagree with any of the content do not sign and submit the statement. Return the statement to your employer clearly indicating the areas for amendment. Contact us if you are concerned about what you’re being asked to sign, or have concerns about something you have already signed.
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Page last updated - 03/08/2023