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GMC urged to regain doctors’ trust following Bawa-Garba case


By Beth Gault, Valeria Fiore
6 June 2019

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The General Medical Council (GMC) must rebuild doctors’ trust following its handling of the Bawa-Garba case, a review has said.

The Independent review of gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide, published today (6 June), encouraged the GMC to ‘acknowledge that its relationship with the medical profession has been severely damaged’ by how it dealt with the case.

The review was commissioned by the GMC in 2018 following the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock in 2011 and the conviction for gross negligence manslaughter and subsequent striking off of senior trainee paediatrician Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba.

According to the review, many doctors have ‘lost confidence’ in the GMC which – despite the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service’s decision not to struck Dr Bawa-Garba off the medical register in June 2017 – appealed against that decision in the High Court in January 2018 and had the doctor removed from the profession.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘One thing this report and its recommendations make clear is that a just culture requires a lot more than the actions of a single regulator.’

He added: ‘The report highlights the new evidence that the public are acutely aware of the pressures facing UK heath systems, and that this can affect their confidence in the care doctors are able to provide.

‘This reinforces why we must all do what we can to make sure doctors are training and working in safe environments, for the benefit of patients, and why the GMC must work with the system to effect change.’

‘Consternation and outrage’

In his foreword of the review, its chair Leslie Hamilton said: ‘The decision of the GMC to seek this doctor’s erasure from the medical register following her criminal conviction caused consternation and outrage across large sections of the medical profession in the United Kingdom and overseas.

‘Some described it as a “toxic fear”. Many questioned why an individual trainee working under pressure should carry the blame for what they considered to be wider systemic failings within her working environment.’

Key recommendations

The review put forward a series of recommendations for the GMC, the Government and other healthcare organisations to consider.

These include:

  • Reducing the GMC’s timescales for progressing fitness-to-practise cases to medical practitioner tribunals and removing the regulator’s right to appeal Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service decisions, which was also suggested in the Williams review last year.
  • A call on the GMC and other healthcare sector organisations to demonstrate commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion after it found that certain doctors felt ‘particularly at risk’ of investigation, including BAME doctors.
  • A need to ensure doctors’ reflections were legally protected and called on the Government to consider this change in law.
  • That local healthcare service provider investigations should be more consistent across England and Wales in particular.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We welcome Leslie Hamilton’s review and as part of our NHS long-term plan we are working to support a just, learning culture that will improve patient safety and better support healthcare professionals, patients and their families.

‘We consulted on proposals to reform the legislative framework of professional regulators and are considering which reforms should be taken forward.’

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