Key questions about doctor’s battle with GMC over decision to strike her off
A paediatric specialist successfully appealed against a decision to increase her punishment after the death of a child.
Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has won an appeal over the decision to strike her off after she was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter over the death of a six-year-old boy.
Here are some key questions and answers relating to the case and the impact the judgement could have on the medical profession.
– Who is Dr Bawa-Garba?
The paediatric specialist was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in 2015 over the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock, who died from sepsis at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.
A tribunal ruled in June last year that she should remain on the medical register despite her conviction, but issued a one-year suspension.
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.
– How did the medical community respond to the case?
The actions of the GMC 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.
Jeremy Hunt, who was health secretary at the time, ordered an urgent review to clarify the line between gross negligence manslaughter and human error for healthcare workers.
Accepting the findings by Professor Sir Norman Williams, Mr Hunt said doctors and nurses who make “honest mistakes” while treating patients would receive greater support.
– What are the implications of Dr Bawa-Garba’s successful appeal?
Organisations representing healthcare workers said the GMC would have to work to regain their trust, and hope the ruling will signal a move away from “blame culture”.
Professor Dame Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the judgement is “a welcome step towards the development of a just culture in healthcare”.
The court of appeal has today unanimously overturned the ruling— Royal College of Physicians (@RCPLondon) August 13, 2018
of the high court that Dr #BawaGarba be struck off the medical register.
Read the response to the judgment from our president @DacreJane herehttps://t.co/NWbtITiAiC
She said: “We hope today’s judgement will provide some reassurance to doctors, particularly our trainees, that they will be protected if they make a mistake.”
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We stand willing to continue working with the GMC to address the issues raised by this case.
“Our members are committed to delivering high-quality, safe care for children and avoiding errors; but when one-off errors do happen, doctors are owed a duty of care and support, not blame.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said the regulator has “lost the confidence of doctors and must now act to rectify their relationship with the profession”.
“Lessons must be learnt from this case which raises wider issues about the multiple factors that affect patient safety in an NHS under extreme pressure rather than narrowly focusing only on individuals,” he added.
– How has the GMC responded?
Charlie Massey, GMC chief executive, said: “We fully accept the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
“This was a case of the tragic death of a child, and the consequent criminal conviction of a doctor.
We’re sorry for the anguish & uncertainty these proceedings have had on Jack’s family, Dr Bawa-Garba & the wider profession. This was a complex case; while the decisions we took were in good faith, we know that investigations & hearings are difficult for everyone involved.— GMC (@gmcuk) August 13, 2018
“It was important to clarify the different roles of criminal courts and disciplinary tribunals in cases of gross negligence manslaughter, and we will carefully examine the court’s decision to see what lessons can be learnt.”
The case has “exposed a raft of concerns, particularly around the role of criminal law in medicine” and the GMC has commissioned an independent review as a result, Mr Massey said.
He added: “Doctors have rightly challenged us to speak out more forcefully to support those practising in pressured environments, and that is what we are increasing our efforts to do.”