Hospital Dr News

Profession reacts with dismay to high court ruling to strike off Dr Bawa-Garba

A doctor who was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence after the death of a six-year-old boy can be struck off, the high court has ruled.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was suspended from the medical register for 12 months in June last year by an MPTS tribunal.

But the judges ruled that Dr Bawa-Garba’s sanction of suspension should be replaced with a decision to remove the doctor’s name from the medical register.

Jack Adcock, who had a heart condition, died of sepsis at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011, hours after being admitted with sickness and vomiting.

The GMC challenged the MPTS tribunal finding, and it’s caused concern across the medical profession.

Many suggest the death was more due to systemic failure, and a lack of support, rather than just individual error.

GMC CEO Charlie Massey said: “The court has confirmed that the Tribunal was simply wrong to conclude that public confidence in the profession could be maintained without removing the doctor from the medical register.

“As the ruling makes clear, the Tribunal were wrong when they decided to suspend the doctor’s registration because in doing so they ‘reached their own less severe view of the degree of Dr Bawa-Garba’s personal culpability’ than was established in the criminal court; which found that Dr Bawa-Garba’s failures that day were not simply honest errors or mere negligence, but were truly exceptionally bad.”

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges took the unprecedented step of raising concerns in the wake of the ruling.

It called for trainees to be given adequate high-quality clinical supervision, even in the most stressful and pressured environments. “They must be confident that they are able to make decisions with sufficient oversight from consultants in a way that protects them and their patients while allowing them to work and develop,” it said.

The ruling is particularly sensitive given the sustained pressure doctors in the NHS are currently working under.

Rob Hendry, Medical Director at the Medical Protection Society – the organisation representing Dr Bawa Garba – said: “The outcome of the GMC’s appeal against the Tribunal decision on this case is disappointing and its implications will understandably be of concern to the healthcare community.

“This challenge was brought by the GMC following their recently acquired right to appeal – a power which we opposed on the basis that it creates an unnecessary and unjust duplication of the Professional Standards Authority’s function.

“While the criminal courts dispense justice – including punishment – the regulator’s role is to protect patients. When considering whether a doctor is fit and safe to practise every case must be assessed on its own merits and should not be solely determined by the criminal sanction handed down by the court. 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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