Leslie Hamilton is today announcing the findings of an independent report, commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC), into how gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide are applied to medical practice.
The review was undertaken after widespread criticism of the GMC’s handling of the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, where they chose to seek erasure from the medical register through the courts, in defiance of their own tribunal’s advice. The High Court decision to uphold the GMC’s position was overturned in the Court of Appeal in August 2018, after a crowd-funding campaign raised £350,000 to take the case forward. However, the case caused widespread fear amongst doctors, who felt that they too were now just one honest mistake away from a criminal conviction, and caused immeasurable harm to the relationship between the profession and its regulator. The resulting climate of fear and blame is toxic to patient safety.
Welcoming the report, Dr Jenny Vaughan, DAUK’s Law and Policy Lead, said:
“This is an excellent and thorough report and the team has really listened to many organisations, like The Doctors’ Association UK, who used their experience to contribute to the review.
Clinicians are not above the law but going forward we must ensure that gross negligence manslaughter cases are only prosecuted where the healthcare worker has shown wilful dishonesty or been reckless in their practice. A greater understanding of the pressures of the system within which clinicians work is needed, while ensuring that patients and families get the answers they need in a timely way.”
Dr Cicely Cunningham, DAUK’s Learn Not Blame Campaign Lead, said:
“We are glad that the GMC have reflected on the outcome of their actions and the impact on their relationship with the doctors they regulate. We have always called for them to reflect in the spirit of our Learn Not Blame Campaign, in order not to make the same mistakes going forward.”
Dr Rinesh Parmar, DAUK’s Vice-Chair, said:
“These recommendations, if implemented in full, will go a long way to address the climate of fear. We welcome the focus on support for both families and staff, as well as the emphasis on the quality and impartiality of local investigations. An inquiring investigative process that prioritises safety concerns and care of those involved, rather than apportioning blame, is vital for a just culture which addresses everyone’s needs.”
A copy of the full report including the 29 recommendations can be found here.