Expert advice

Legal advice: should I comply with a request to write a report on an incident I was not involved in?

If you are asked to write a report on an incident which occured when you were not there, present the facts clearly, ensure it is based on the evidence provided and seek advice from a trade union representative if necessary, says legal expert Marc Cornock. 
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If you are asked to write a report on an incident which occured when you were not there, present the facts clearly, ensure it is based on the evidence available and seek advice from a trade union representative if necessary, says legal expert Marc Cornock

There are many instances where someone could be asked to write a report on an incident they were not directly involved in. This could be to obtain an objective overview of the incident or, as a manager of a unit, you may need to draw together the views of a number of different people.

The first thing you need to highlight in the report is your position in relation to the incident, and the fact that you were not

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If you are asked to write a report on an incident which occured when you were not there, present the facts clearly, ensure it is based on the evidence available and seek advice from a trade union representative if necessary, says legal expert Marc Cornock


When you write your report, do so in the third person. Using ‘I’ might
imply you were involved. Picture: iStock

There are many instances where someone could be asked to write a report on an incident they were not directly involved in. This could be to obtain an objective overview of the incident or, as a manager of a unit, you may need to draw together the views of a number of different people.

The first thing you need to highlight in the report is your position in relation to the incident, and the fact that you were not directly involved or present when it occurred. It would also be useful to state your current role, and why you have been asked to complete the report.

When writing your report, ensure you present a factual account based on the available evidence. You can refer to any documents available, interview anyone involved in the incident if applicable, or use the statements they have compiled. One thing to be clear about is that writing a report is not the same as investigating an incident.

Incident timeline 

When you complete the report, it is good practice to say where you obtained your information from: which documents you used or who was interviewed, for example. A useful way of presenting the report would be to compile a timeline of the incident and show the evidence for each period of the timeline.

When you write your report, do so in the third person, because using ‘I’ might imply you were involved. Using phrases such as ‘the document shows’ or ‘nurse x states’ is a way of being clear that you were not personally involved.

You may want to obtain advice and guidance from a trade union or professional organisation representative before you start your report, and again before submitting it.


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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