Hospital Dr News

Bawa-Garba: Positive reaction to Jeremy Hunt’s review into medical malpractice cases

The medical profession has welcomed the Health Secretary’s announcement of a review into malpractice cases, following concerns over a recent manslaughter case.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was struck off the medical register after she was found guilty of mistakes in the care of a six-year-old boy who died of sepsis.

The GMC pursued the doctor in the High Court following her suspension by a MPTS tribunal.

The health secretary says clarity is needed about drawing the line between gross negligence and ordinary errors.

Doctors should learn from not fear mistakes, he said.

Dr Bawa-Garba’s case provoked outrage among medical colleagues who pointed to systemic failures – not just individual mistakes – in the tragic case of Jack Adcock.

Many have questioned who is responsible in an under-funded system, with significant demand and extensive rota gaps, when tragic mistakes are made.

More than 800 medics have signed an open letter in support of Dr Bawa-Garba, saying the part low staffing levels played in the tragedy is being ignored and striking her off will discourage medics from being open when reviewing mistakes.

Dr Bawa-Garba was originally suspended from the medical register for 12 months last June by a tribunal, but she has now been removed from the medical register following the High Court appeal.

The GMC said the original decision was “not sufficient to protect the public”.

The government’s rapid review will be led by Prof Sir Norman Williams, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and will report back by the end of April 2018.

It will look at:

  • Any lessons that need to be learned by the General Medical Council and other professional regulators
  • How learning, openness and transparency can be protected so that mistakes are learned from and not covered up
  • Providing clarity to doctors about where they stand with respect to criminal liability and professional misconduct.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, welcomed the review.

He said: “It’s vitally important that doctors’ personal reflections – which encourage openness and improvement through reflection and learning – are protected.

“We also need greater clarity on the line between gross negligence manslaughter and human error in medicine. There is concern that a growing number of prosecutions of doctors for gross negligence manslaughter results in doctors becoming more cautious. This makes it more likely that they will practise defensive medicine, which is not in the interests of patients.”

The BMA also called on the government to acknowledge the system-wide pressures NHS staff work under and which compromise the delivery of high-quality, safe patient care.

Jack Adcock died at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011 when undiagnosed sepsis led to cardiac arrest.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: “Doctors are working in extremely challenging conditions, and we recognise that any doctor can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure.

“We know that we cannot immediately resolve all of the profession’s concerns, but we are determined to do everything possible to bring positive improvements out of this issue.”

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at the Medical Protection Society, said: “Gross Negligence Manslaughter cases are usually complex, involve systems failures, and are devastating for all concerned.

“A conviction should not automatically mean that a doctor who has fully remediated and demonstrated insight into their clinical failings is erased.”

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