The Doctors’ Association UK welcomes today’s Court of Appeal verdict in the case of Bawa-Garba vs the GMC as a small step towards a better NHS for patients and doctors alike.
The case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba united the medical profession in fear and outrage. A paediatrician in training, with a previously unblemished record, convicted of gross negligence manslaughter for judgements made whilst doing the jobs of several doctors at once, covering six wards across four floors, responding to numerous paediatric emergencies, without a functioning IT system, and in the absence of a consultant, all when just returning from 14 months of maternity leave.
But it was the GMC’s aggressive pursuit of an otherwise highly regarded doctor which prompted widespread anger amongst doctors. In January of this year, the High Court upheld the GMC’s argument that Dr Bawa-Garba should be struck off, against the advice of its own Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service. Today’s verdict reverses that decision and opens the door to Dr Bawa-Garba being reinstated on the Register of Medical Practitioners.
Today’s verdict shows that pursuing Dr Bawa-Garba’s erasure through the courts was a serious error of judgement on the part of Mr Charlie Massey. The GMC has shown it cannot be trusted to take a balanced and non-punitive approach in the context of system failures.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Chair of The Doctors’ Association UK, said: “This is a small step in the right direction for patients and doctors. We need to make sure that patients and families get the answers they need through open and transparent engagement with NHS organisations. The GMC needs to rethink its priorities in enabling this to happen rather than aggressively pursuing doctors in the courts.”
Dr Cicely Cunningham, The Doctors’ Association UK Learn Not Blame Campaign Lead, said: “We welcome today’s verdict. Pursuing an honest doctor with a previously unblemished record through the courts for errors made in the context of system failures does nothing to improve patient safety. The GMC needs to shift its focus away from individual blame and instead truly prioritise the safety and well-being of those who use the NHS.”