Becoming a medico-legal report writer for Freedom from Torture

Dr Jillian Creasy discusses her experience of branching out from general practice.

Easing into semi-retirement

I began writing medico-legal reports (MLRs) for Freedom from Torture (FfT) shortly before giving up doing GP locums at the age of 59. I was torn between finding it hard to keep up with 'the knowledge' required for GP-ing and the wish to continue as a doctor in some way. I had been involved with asylum seekers in some of my salaried and locum jobs and with City of Sanctuary as a City Councillor. A friend at a Medact conference encouraged me to apply to FfT. It has allowed me to ease into semi-retirement by providing fresh intellectual stimulation, being part of a team and the satisfaction of helping clients.

How it works

Freedom from Torture is a national organisation with regional offices including in Manchester. It provides holistic support for survivors of torture, most of whom are asylum seekers, including medico-legal reports to help them gain refugee status. The initial training is thorough (online modules prior to a three-day course). This is followed by shadowing, mentoring and good support from doctors, lawyers and admin staff. All reports are reviewed by a doctor and lawyer which means continuous learning and feedback are built into the work.

Clients are referred by a solicitor and the cases screened for suitability. If accepted and after legal aid has been confirmed, the doctor sees the client for at least one long appointment. There is a move to reduce the number of appointments but it still feels luxurious to have hours rather than minutes to gather the story and do a detailed examination. We work with specially trained interpreters.

A flexible role

The most onerous part is reading the legal papers, writing a long report and revising it after comments from the reviewers. People often ask me how I can bear hearing the traumatic stories. Somehow the writing and sharing with the team help me to process the emotional aspects.

Volunteer MLR writers typically write three or four reports a year, which can be spaced to accommodate holidays or other commitments, so it is very flexible. I now have a paid role and have taken on training, mentoring and reviewing as well as writing MLRs.

About the writer

Dr Jillian Creasy is part of the Later Career and Retired Members community.