The Doctors’ Association UK attended a roundtable meeting at the House of Lords this morning to address the growing concerns about bullying and harassment in the NHS. The meeting was organised by the General Medical Council (GMC), hosted by Dr Philippa Whitford MP and was attended by key stakeholders including Royal Colleges, NHS Employers, NHS Improvement, the BMA, MPs and Peers. Our members were represented by our Chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Vice-Chair Dr Rinesh Parmar who is leading our work on NHS bullying and undermining and our Law and Policy Lead Dr Jenny Vaughan. This meeting brought together various streams of our work including #NHSMeToo, #CompassionateCulture and #LearnNotBlame.
Today, there is widespread relief amongst the medical profession. However, the verdict is no cause for celebration. At the heart of this case is a child, Jack Adcock, who tragically lost his life to sepsis. Our hearts go out to the Adcock family as they continue to grief for Jack. When a child dies it is our duty as doctors to do all we can to prevent the same tragedy from occurring again. We strongly feel that scapegoating an individual doctor or clinician for human errors made whilst whilst working under enormous pressure, does not serve this purpose. Instead, the criminalisation of medical error creates a culture of fear and blame, where clinicians feel afraid to speak up, afraid to reflect, and afraid to learn when things go wrong. Therefore we welcome the verdict of the Medical Tribunal Practitioners Service today, who, after considering all the system failures and the context in which Dr Bawa-Garba made errors, has found her safe to return to medical practice.
Following our correspondence with the Health and Social Care Committee (HSC) DAUK has now been invited to submit written evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry into gross negligence manslaughter. This briefing will accompany the BMA’s briefing which will be going to the Health and Social Committee tomorrow afternoon.
After months of pressure on the Health Select Committee, from DAUK, David Nicholl, Alan Woodall GP Survival and others, a Parliamentary inquiry has now been announced.
Despite the request coming from the grassroots, disappointingly no doctors or organisations representing doctors have been invited to give evidence. However, the Health Select Committee will be hearing from Charlie Massey.
Coverage in Pulse: A doctor-led lobbying group has urged the health secretary to review the GMC’s ability to appeal its own fitness-to-practice tribunal. In a letter to Matt Hancock, The Doctor’s Association UK said the GMC’s right to appeal the MPTS has led to ‘significant unwelcome and unintended consequences’.
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) - working alongside their affiliates in a number of other doctor-led advocacy and lobbying groups, namely the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Doctors for Progress, Doctors in Unite, EveryDoctor, GP Survival, Health Campaigns Together, the Independent Health Professionals Association, Justice for Hadiza Bawa-Garba, Scottish Action for Hadiza Bawa-Garba and Manslaughter in Healthcare - has taken steps to alert the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to their significant concerns regarding the recent and ongoing actions of the General Medical Council (GMC).
These concerns relate to cases being brought to the Court of Appeal by the GMC in an attempt to overrule the findings of doctors’ tribunal proceedings, in order to have doctors erased from the medical register. DAUK and its affiliates are calling for the Health Secretary to undertake an urgent review of the current and ongoing actions of the GMC, and to put a stop to such appeals being brought, pending a review of relevant legislation.
This call for action has come following the landmark case involving Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba. The GMC had sought to overturn a decision made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), in order to erase Dr Bawa-Garba from the medical register. To the relief of the medical profession, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the GMC’s case, and ruled that Dr Bawa-Garba ought to be reinstated to the medical register, thus allowing her to continue to work as a doctor.
The Bawa-Garba case resulted in the launch of the Williams Review, with recommendations being made in June of 2018. Professor Norman Williams stated that the GMC ought to have its right to appeal MPTS verdicts removed, and noted that granting the GMC this right of appeal in 2015 had come with significant unwelcome and unintended consequences. DAUK concludes that the GMC cannot be trusted to take a balanced and considered approach in placing sanctions upon doctors in circumstances such as those faced by Dr Bawa- Garba – doctors making honest mistakes in the context of system failure.
The Doctors’ Association UK are alarmed to learn that, despite the outcome of the Bawa-Garba case, along with the recommendations of the Williams Review, the GMC has continued to appeal MPTS verdicts in the courts. Within the last weeks, the GMC has been urged to show “restraint”, and judges have expressed “regret” at such cases having been brought to the Court of Appeal. DAUK understands that there are a further four appeals due to be heard, all of which involve the GMC appealing to overturn tribunal verdicts.
The Doctors’ Association UK believes that the continuation of such unchecked action by the GMC will lead to a further breakdown in trust between the medical profession and its regulator, with a progressive move towards a culture of fear and blame, rather than one of learning. DAUK urges the Health Secretary to request that the GMC halts its appeals against MPTS verdicts forthwith. Furthermore, DAUK asks the Health Secretary to confirm that the recommendations of the Williams review will be upheld, and that the relevant changes to legislation are made without delay.