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.
This morning a letter by Dr Rinesh Parmar of The Doctors’ Association UK was published in The Times in response to an article published last week entitled “Health service is chaotic and dysfunction, says NHS chief”. Whilst we all recognise areas in which the NHS can improve, stating that NHS staff have lost their vocation cannot be further from the everyday reality of frontline staff going the extra mile for patients. Read the full letter here.
The Doctors’ Association UK welcomes statements made ahead of the Secretary of State’s speech encouraging patients to adopt healthier lifestyles. However, we are concerned that such laudable statements do not tally with last week’s budget, suggesting yet more cuts to public health funding that covers prevention initiatives run by Public Health England. We understand Mr Hancock is not expected to announce any measures to aid health prevention, and therefore we must question how this will be funded.
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.
DAUK has replied to a letter from Charlie Massey dated 13 September. We welcome the apology offered by Mr Massey and the opportunity to meet. DAUK has, however, expressed concern in a number of areas, including the news that the GMC is continuing to appeal MPTS verdicts, and call on the GMC to cease doing so urgently.
DAUK welcomes the publication of the Joint Committee on Draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill (HSSIB) report and are pleased that the report agrees with our written submission that the provision for the HSSIB to accredit NHS trusts to do their own ‘safe space’ investigations is an enormous conflict of interest.
DAUK Chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, who sat in court during the Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba appeal tells GPonline: ‘Particularly concerning to all of us has been the GMC’s line of argument. To an observer, it seems the crux of their argument is that system failures were not relevant in Hadiza’s case, and should not have been taken into account by the MPTS when determining her level of culpability and her sanction.’