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Doctor convicted of negligence over death of six-year-old boy can practise again

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has not worked since November 2015 when a jury convicted her of gross negligence manslaughter.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba (PA)
Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba (PA)

A doctor who received a suspended jail sentence over the death of a six-year-old boy can practise again, a medical tribunal has ruled.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has not worked since November 2015 when a jury convicted her of gross negligence manslaughter in her treatment of Jack Adcock who developed sepsis and died of cardiac arrest at Leicester Royal Infirmary in February 2011.

Among her failures were making an incorrect diagnosis of gastro-enteritis on initial examination of the youngster – who had Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition – and not acting on a clinical reading which “ought to have been a clear indicator” of sepsis, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing was told.

Subsequently she was sentenced in December 2015 at Nottingham Crown Court to two years in jail, suspended for the same period.

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Jack Adcock, who died at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011 (Family handout/Leicestershire Police/PA)

Lawyers told that hearing the career of Dr Bawa-Garba – who had wanted to be a doctor since the age of 13 – was over in light of the conviction.

She was later barred from practise for 12 months before the General Medical Council (GMC) took the case to the High Court to appeal against the sanction, saying it was “not sufficient” and Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off in January 2018.

But last August the Court of Appeal ruled her name should be restored to the medical register and her case be sent back to the MPTS.

On Tuesday, a tribunal determined that a raft of conditions be imposed on her registration for 24 months from the end of July when her 12-month suspension ends.

The conditions include that Dr Bawa-Garba must be closely supervised by a clinical supervisor, she must have an educational supervisor and she must allow the GMC to exchange information with any person involved in monitoring her compliance with her conditions.

The tribunal directed a review of Dr Bawa-Garba’s case take place shortly before the end of the period of conditional registration in which the doctor will be expected to show she has made a successful return to clinical practice and her skills and knowledge are up-to-date.

Dr Bawa-Garba told the tribunal: “This case will live with me for the rest of my life.”

This case will live with me for the rest of my life Dr Bawa-Garba

Tribunal chairwoman Claire Sharp said the risk of Dr Bawa-Garba putting another patient at unwarranted risk of harm was low and the evidence showed she had undertaken a “significant” amount of remediation.

Mrs Sharp said: “Given the remediation Dr Bawa-Garba has already undertaken and the full insight she has developed into her shortcomings, the tribunal was satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba has the potential to respond positively to remediation, retraining, and to her work being supervised.

“From the evidence before it the tribunal was also satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba remains fully committed to keeping her skills and knowledge up-to-date and that she has made substantial progress in doing so, despite not being in clinical practice.”

Dr Bawa-Garba was “on the cusp” of becoming a consultant prior to the incident as a specialist registrar but plans to take a step back in grade “some years” when she returns to work in February 2020 following maternity leave, the hearing in Manchester was told.

She will undergo a national recruitment process where all paediatric trainees are reassessed in which, according to her barrister Michael Hayton QC, would “put her to the test quite literally to show she is capable of performing at an adequate level”.

Arguing for conditions, Mr Hayton conceded there was a series of failures on her part that led to her performing far below acceptable standards in 2011 but added “these failings stand in isolation” in her career.

Simon Jackson QC, for the GMC, agreed that the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case was now a period of conditional registration.

Jack’s parents Nicky, 45, and Victor, 53, from Glen Parva, Leicestershire, fiercely opposed the doctor being allowed to practise again.

Giving evidence on Monday via videolink from her home after recently giving birth to her fourth child, Dr Bawa-Garba told the tribunal: “This case will live with me for the rest of my life.”

The actions of the GMC to appeal the original suspension angered many doctors who said important issues raised by the case – including dangerous levels of understaffing, failures of IT systems and staff working in inappropriate conditions – had been ignored.

Following the hearing, teaching assistant Mrs Adcock said: “She made over 21 mistakes with my son that day. Her human errors, nothing to do with the system.

“If I got in a car, and I know it’s different, and I hit a child and I killed that child then I would lose my licence and I would go to prison.

“I would probably never want to get in that car again but all she has done is to try and fight us.

“She doesn’t care about anybody else.

“All she cares about is herself..Her career is more important than the life of my son.

“That day all she had to was ask for help … all she had to do was phone intensive care, phone the consultant who would have took one look at Jack and got him in intensive care.”

Mrs Adcock said she was “gobsmacked” when Dr Bawa-Garba was originally handed a 12-month suspension but then welcomed the GMC’s successful appeal to the High Court to strike her off.

“That is the best thing that could have happened and she should have stayed erased,” said Mrs Adcock.

“There’s a question I’d like to ask: If she goes back to work and the same thing happens again, and she contributes to someone’s death, whose head is on the block for that? Is it the MPTS?

“Is it the GMC? Is it the consultant? Is she (Bawa-Garba) going to say ‘It’s not my fault’ and blame everyone else again?

“I don’t think she should ever be allowed in a hospital again.”

A GMC spokeswoman said: “We would like to acknowledge how difficult this process has been for the Adcock family and our thoughts are with them.

“The GMC and Dr Bawa-Garba’s representatives both submitted to the medical practitioners tribunal that her fitness to practise remains impaired due to the length of time she has been out of practice.

“It is important the doctor’s return to practise is safely managed.

“The tribunal agreed, making a finding of impairment, and they have imposed conditions on Dr Bawa-Garba’s registration for two years in order to allow her to return safely to practise.”

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, chair of The Doctors’ Association UK said: “Today’s verdict, whilst welcome, is no cause of celebration. There are no winners in this desperately sad case.

“However, restoring Dr Bawa-Garba to the medical register is the right outcome and will go some way in addressing the current climate of fear and blame in the NHS which is so toxic to patient safety.

“I have no doubt that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba will now be the safest doctor in the hospital, and as a doctor and a mother I would have no hesitation in allowing her to treat my child.”

Solicitor Tim Johnson, who represents Dr Bawa-Garba, said: “This case has caused enormous controversy. Doctors across the world are concerned that they may too be convicted of manslaughter and struck off if they make a mistake in diagnosis as Dr Bawa-Garba did.

“Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter but she was not the only person held responsible for the death of the patient and the hospital systems broke down that day which contributed to the mistakes that were made.

“In 2017 the (MPTS) tribunal found that Dr Bawa-Garba was no more likely than any other doctor to cause the death of a patient in future but before allowing her to resume practice a disciplinary tribunal wanted to be shown that she had insight into the consequences of her actions.

“The tribunal heard evidence from her yesterday and has accepted that she has an insight.”

PA

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