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GMC apologises over decision to appeal Tribunal decision in the Dr Bawa-Garba case

Dr Bawa-Garba was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following the death of Jack Adcock, a 6 year old child, who was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) on 18 February 2011. He died later that day, in part because of failings in his treatment.

Findings of gross negligence manslaughter against health care professionals are rare and this case raised (not so rare) concerns about the relationship between personal culpability and systemic failures.

When a Medical Practitioners Tribunal decision not to remove Bawa-Garba from the register was announced the GMC appealed. Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC said that they chose to appeal the Tribunal’s decision because the panel had not taken proper account, as required in law, of the criminal court’s judgement, and that their approach on sanction did not take sufficient account of the GMC’s statutory duty to consider public confidence in the profession in light of the court’s findings on so serious of an offence.

The judgement handed down by the High Court confirmed that the Tribunal’s approach did not give due weight to the jury’s verdict, and was “simply wrong to conclude that, in all the circumstances, public confidence in the profession and its professional standards could be maintained by any sanction short of erasure.”

Nonetheless the decision caused much disquiet in the medical profession and on 13 March 2018 the GMC released the following statement;

“We are listening to what you’re saying about this case, and we are in no doubt about the strength and depth of feeling that is being expressed. We are sorry that it has had such a significant impact on the profession, and that as a result, many of you are feeling upset and unsure about your practice and the environments in which you work. That was never our intention and we know that we have a huge amount to do to rebuild the trust that we have lost.

Our liaison teams are speaking with doctors across the UK. And our leadership team are regularly meeting your representatives – who are putting your views strongly to us – as well as those on the frontline. We are determined to do all we can to respond to your concerns and continue our work to improve how we support you.

Since the High Court handed down its judgement, we have:

  • met with thousands of doctors, medical students and educators across the UK to discuss the case and how we can better support you in challenging environments
  • met with those who represent and work with you, including the British Medical Association (BMA), and your college Presidents.
  • made a number of commitments to the BMA to address some of their most immediate concerns
  • announced a review, to be led by Dame Clare Marx to look at how manslaughter by gross negligence – and the equivalent offence of culpable homicide in Scotland– is applied to medical practice
  • committed to participating in the UK government’s review of medical manslaughter
  • prioritised work to develop clearer guidance on reflective practice in collaboration with doctors in training representatives, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Postgraduate Deans and medical schools”