Dr Philippa Whitford MP joins The Doctors’ Association UK in leading the call of over 1200 UK doctors for a public investigation into the GMC’s handling of the Bawa-Garba case
The Doctors’ Association UK believes the GMC made a serious error of judgement in aggressively pursuing Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba in the courts, when it sought to have her struck off for honest mistakes made whilst under immense pressure.(1) This was against the advice of its own expert panel, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), who determined that Dr Bawa-Garba presented no greater risk to patients than any other competent doctor. The GMC’s action prompted widespread concern amongst the medical profession and patient safety campaigners that a junior doctor was being scapegoated for widespread systemic failures.
On Monday 13th August, the Court of Appeal threw out the GMC’s arguments and ruled that Dr Bawa-Garba could be reinstated on the medical register.
The Doctors’ Association UK believes that the GMC has shown it cannot be trusted to take a balanced and non-punitive view in its assessment of doctors in the context of system failures. The Doctors’ Association UK’s central campaign, launched in response to the GMC’s actions in Dr Bawa-Garba’s case, is Learn Not Blame, which seeks to address the problems of the blame culture within the NHS. In the spirit of this, we do not seek to scapegoat any one particular individual or group of individuals working within the GMC.
Instead, The Doctors’ Association UK has brought together over 1200 GMC-registered doctors, including Dr Philippa Whitford, MP, in writing to the GMC. Signatories include Mr David Sellu, whose conviction for Gross Negligence Manslaughter was quashed after he spent 15 months in prison. Other signatories include prominent whistleblowers and campaigners. Collectively, we call for the GMC to take responsibility for its actions and learn valuable lessons from the outcome of this case. Applying a genuinely reflective approach, as is expected of doctors in their practice, would be a significant step in restoring the confidence and trust in the GMC as a regulatory body. Lessons must be learnt to ensure that learning, openness and honesty is prioritised over blame, defensiveness and scapegoating.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Chair of DAUK, said “The GMC’s decision to pursue Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba’s erasure from the medical register has led to an unprecedented loss of confidence in the GMC. As doctors, we recognise that mistakes happen. The GMC must now hold itself up to the same level of scrutiny that the GMC expects of doctors. We call on the GMC to reflect openly on its actions and to refer itself to the Health Select Committee for consideration of a public investigation. This, we believe, is a crucial first step towards restoring the trust of doctors and the public in the GMC.”
Dr Cicely Cunningham, Learn Not Blame Campaign (2) Lead, said “The GMC’s actions have set the patient safety agenda back by decades. We would like to see the GMC reflecting openly and honestly on its misjudgements in this case. A genuine attempt to learn from its mistakes would be a step towards restoring the confidence of the medical profession, and in moving towards the just culture the NHS so desperately needs”.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. On 28th February The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) wrote a letter to Mr Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC expressing overwhelming concern regarding the handling of the Bawa-Garba case. This letter was signed by over 4500 doctors and several MPs. The letter can be found here.
2. Following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba DAUK launched our campaign Learn Not Blame, seeking to change the way medical error is approached in the UK. Our aim is to transform the current culture of blame and fear, into one of learning. We believe this is vital for patient safety, and have received cross-party support for the campaign, as well as backing from our peers. More information on the campaign can be found here.