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RCGP raises concerns over Bawa-Garba case

It says doctors must have high quality clinical supervision and training

Mark Gould

Monday, 05 March 2018

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says it has ‘considerable concerns’ about the way the GMC handled the case of a hospital doctor who was removed from the medical register as a result of the death of a six-year-old patient.

Junior paediatrician, Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence and given a two-year suspended sentence for mistakes which led to Jack Adcock’s ‘needless death’ in 2011. But the decision sparked anger from the medical community, with many raising concerns that the High Court case failed to look at medical realities, including exceptional pressures faced by NHS staff and system-wide failings.

In a statement RCGP chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said, “[Dr Bawa-Garba's case] has shaken the entire medical community in the UK - it is now essential that lessons are learnt from this case, and are used to shape the future of medical practice in the best interests of NHS staff and patient care".

Professor Stokes-Lampard said that the medical profession must unite and to that end she said the College is standing with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans in calling for the resources to ensure that all doctors in training have adequate, high-quality clinical supervision, and that safe staffing levels and functioning systems are in place right across the NHS.

"It is important that all doctors have confidence in the organisation that regulates them, and to this end we will be working constructively with the GMC to ensure it is sensitive to the concerns of GPs, and that steps are taken to restore the confidence that has been lost.

"There was considerable concern at council over the GMC's approach to Dr Bawa-Garba's case, and the way it was handled, and the College will be raising this with the regulator directly.

"It would not be right for us to comment on the judicial process and verdicts, but we have welcomed the government's review into cases of gross negligence manslaughter. We will be responding to this and hope the conclusions from this investigation will help us all work together to improve our health system for patients and staff throughout the NHS, both now and in the future."

Professor Stokes-Lampard added that the implications of Dr Bawa-Garba's case were particularly significant for GPs who work independently, largely alone, seeing the greatest number of patients on a daily basis in the health service.

"We do this without effective mechanisms to control our increasing workload, and a vital part of our role is to deal with uncertainty and manage risk on behalf of the NHS.

"It is essential that supportive systems are in place for GPs and our teams to recognise and report errors that occur, and reflect on them so that we can learn and take steps to reduce the chance of them happening again. RCGP Council is very concerned that instead of promoting an open culture focussed on learning from errors by improving systems, the unintended consequence of this tragic case could be regression to a blame culture."

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