Sir Robert Francis QC

Associate Member

Call 1973 | Silk 1992

Sir Robert Francis QC | Call 1973 | Silk 1992

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Robert’s practice encompasses clinical negligence, medical ethics, inquiries, professional discipline and regulation, medical employment issues and public law. He chaired the two Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust inquiries and the NHS Freedom to Speak Up Review and is currently acting in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. He is instructed in litigation in overseas jurisdictions including the Isle of Man, Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. Chambers & Partners notes that “there is probably nobody better in terms of his advocacy skills, his tactical sense and his thorough approach to cases.”

Robert is clerked primarily by Lee Johnson, Clare Sabido, Natasha Southgate and Alicia Lutumba.

Robert received his knighthood in 2014 for services to healthcare and patients.

“He offers Rolls-Royce advocacy, and the courts respect him for his arguments and his understanding.”
Chambers & Partners

experience & Expertise

Robert Francis has for many years specialised in medical law in all its aspects:

He has acted as chairman of three inquiries into the care and treatment of mental health service users who have committed homicide. He has appeared as counsel for interested parties at a number of public inquiries, including the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry, the Royal Liverpool Children’s Inquiry, and the Neale inquiry. He chaired the two Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust inquiries (reports 2010 and 2013 respectively), and the Freedom to Speak Up Review into the treatment of NHS staff who raise concerns.

Clinical negligence
He undertakes clinical negligence actions on behalf of claimants (publicly or privately funded or on conditional fee arrangements) and defendants, including NHS bodies, private healthcare providers, all the medical defence organisations, and insurers.  He is frequently instructed both at first instance and on appeal in high value claims and those involving complex medical and legal issues.

Medical ethics
He is instructed in cases involving difficult or controversial ethical dilemmas and problems in relation to treatment decisions for patients unable to make their own decisions, withdrawal or withholding of life prolonging care, socially controversial treatment such as sterilisation of mental patients, treatment of patients refusing consent to treatment etc. He has appeared in many of the leading cases in this field in the Court of Appeal and House of Lords.

Professional discipline and regulation
He appears on behalf of practitioners before professional conduct committees of regulatory bodies such as the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and on appeals from them to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or the High Court. He has sat as a legal assessor to professional disciplinary committees of the General Optical Council and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. He has sat as legal adviser to the Licensing Committee of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (2007).

Public law
He undertakes applications for judicial review in relation to all areas of his practice.

Criminal cases
He has been instructed in criminal cases, particularly those involving medically or professionally related issues.

cases and work of note

In addition to cases detailed above, Robert’s recent work includes representing the successful clinical negligence claimant in a multi-million pound aspirin/stroke case and acting for the doctor in GMC v Squier. Earlier in his career he appeared in the leading case of Bland and the inquiry into the treatment and care of Michael Stone.


Robert is ranked as a band one silk by Chambers & Partners for both clinical negligence and professional disciplinary work. He has also been consistently highly ranked by the legal directories in practice areas including inquests and inquiries and civil liberties and human rights.

The Legal 500 concludes that he is one of the outstanding silks of his generation.”

Other recent directory editorial has included the following:


Advocacy for a silk is less about individual heroism than getting the best out of a team. It is always about ensuring that those you represent understand what is happening and feel comfortable with what is being said on their behalf.

The law is not an end in itself but the means of protecting rights, resolving differences, and upholding the public interest in the rule of law. Resolving the conflict between these aims is part of its eternal fascination.

It is important to ensure that everyone’s expectations of what can be achieved in a case are realistic. That means that you need to take a balanced approach in offering advice.

“It is always about ensuring that those you represent understand what is happening and feel comfortable with what is being said on their behalf.”

No-one wants to be involved in damages claims. Meeting the challenges in helping patients obtain justifiable redress to meet their needs, or healthcare staff to explain what happened is really important work.

When things go wrong in healthcare untold damage can be done to patients, their loved ones and the staff who have done their best to care for them. I feel very fortunate to be able to play a part in finding out what went wrong and how to prevent it happening again.

There are few more important tasks for a lawyer than getting the best decisions for those who cannot decide for themselves. It is has been a privilege to be involved the development of the law in this field over the last 30 years.


  • President, The Patients Association
  • Commissioner and Non-Executive Director, Care Quality Commission
  • Authorised to sit as a Deputy High Court Judge (QBD)
  • Bencher of Inner Temple; Chair of Inner Temple Education and Training Committee
  • Past Chair of Professional Negligence Bar Association
  • Member, Clinical Dispute Forum
  • Co-author of Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law
  • Honorary Fellow of UCL Partners NHS Staff College
  • Honorary Fellowship, UCL Partners NHS Staff College
  • Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists
  • Patron, Florence Nightingale Foundation
  • Trustee, Point of Care Foundation
  • Trustee, Prostate Cancer Research Centre
  • Member, Editorial Board, Clinical Risk
  • Honorary Doctorate of Medicine, St George’s Medical School
  • Honorary Fellowship, Royal College of Pathologists
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, University of Exeter
  • Honorary Fellowship, Royal College of Surgeons [England]


Sir Robert is a contributor to The Medical Law Reports. He has recently reported on the following cases:

  • Sastry v General Medical Council [2021] EWCA Civ 623 [2021] Med LR 401 Appeals from Medical Practitioners Tribunal – Appeals by practitioner – Appropriate test – Deference to the Tribunal.
  • R. (on the application of Maughan) v HM Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire [2020] UKSC 46 [2021] Med LR 1 Inquests – conclusions – suicide- unlawful killing – standard of proof – criminal standard – civil standard
  • Whittington Hospital NHS Trust v XX [2020] UKSC 14 [2020] Med LR 209 Deprivation of ability to bear children – Damages – Public policy – Recoverability of surrogacy costs – Overseas commercial surrogacy arrangements.
  • Arowojolu v GMC [2019] EWHC 3155 (Admin) [2020] Med LR 1 Fitness to practice – Sexual assault – Evidence – Credibility – Relevance of previous allegation by complainant.
  • Synclair v East Lancashire Hos NHS Trust [2015] EWCA Civ 1283 [2016] Med LR 1
    Clinical negligence – Evidence – Contemporaneous record – Conflict with patient’s recollection.
  • Harman v East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2015] EWHC 1662 (QB) [2016] Med LR 305
    Clinical negligence – Damages – Severe disability – Education costs – Choice of private or public funding – Expert quantum evidence – Relevance of parents’ wishes.
  • Wright v Barts Health NHS Trust [2016] EWHC 1834 (QB) [2016] Med LR 545
    Concurrent tortfeasors – Liability for different tortious acts causing same damage.
  • Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015] UKSC 11 [2015] Med LR 149
    Clinical negligence – informed consent – Warning of risks – Choice of treatment.
  • AM v GMC [2015] EWHC 2096 (Admin) [2015] Med LR 453
    Assisting suicide – GMC guidance – Lawfulness of discouraging doctors to assist suicide.
  • Meiklejohn v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and another [2014] EWCA Civ 120 [2014] Med LR 122
    Informed consent – Whether necessary for samples taken for research – Standard of care – Whether higher for clinician of national and international standing.
  • NHS Commissioning Board v Yellon [2014] EWHC 1994 (QB)
    NHS dental services – Arrangement for provision of series – Liability for breach of non-contractual terms.
  • NHS Trust 1, 2 v FG (by her lit friend, OS) [2014] EWCOP 30 [2104] Med LR 470
    Patient – Capacity – Best interests – Restraint – Deprivation of liberty obstetric intervention – When court application required.


Sir Robert adopts and adheres to the provisions of the privacy notice which can be accessed here.


For further details of Robert’s practice please click on the links to the left or contact a member of the clerking or client service team.

Bar Council Membership No: 13389
Registered Name: Robert Anthony Francis
VAT Registration No: 244594543