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GMC chair apologises to doctors for ‘fear and anguish’ caused by Bawa-Garba case

The chair of the GMC has said he is ‘extremely sorry’ for the distress caused to the medical profession after the regulator went to High Court to strike off a junior doctor.

Professor Terence Stephenson was speaking on The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live, after it ran a report based on Pulse’s front cover and played audio clips from GPs who spoke about their own experience of system pressures leading to mistakes.

Professor Stephenson also acknowledged that the case had damaged the regulator’s relationship with the profession.

Earlier this year, the GMC successfully struck off Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba in the High Court, overturning a decision from its own tribunal service, which found her fit to practise.

However, the medical profession reacted angrily to the decision, pointing out that there were a series of systematic failures that led to the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock in 2011.

This anger culminated in a vote of no confidence at the LMCs Conference last Friday, with a march planned on the GMC offices later this month.

The 20-minute segment opening the BBC report focused on the Pulse front cover, which featured more than 140 GPs’ faces in a mosaic of Dr Bawa-Garba’s face, and played audio clips from Pulse.

It featured an interview with Pulse editor Nigel Praities, and GPC member Dr David Wrigley, whose face featured in the mosaic.

Stand-in host Anna Foster later put the level of anger felt by the profession to Professor Stephenson.

He said: ‘I’m a practising doctor on the front line, I work every day, I work with trainees, and I completely acknowledge the pressure they are under and I completely acknowledge the sense of distress in the profession that this case has caused.

‘I am extremely sorry for the effects on the profession and the kind of fear and anguish it has provoked – I completely understand that.’

He added that the GMC wanted to support doctors to ensure they don’t find themselves in the same situation as Dr Bawa-Garba.

When asked whether the GMC regretted the decision, Professor Stephenson said: ‘We take these decisions with a very heavy heart. There is no pleasure for me – I’ve been training doctors for 35 years – in seeing a young, idealistic doctor have their career ruined.’

Mr Praities had earlier said that he had never seen the profession so angry. He said: ‘It’s immense, it’s definitely taken us by surprise in terms of the concern and anger among doctors regarding this particular case.

‘It’s touched on something very deep in the medical profession, I think.’

Readers' comments (53)

  • Too little . Too late.

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  • Save the crocodile tears. RESIGN.

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  • Crocodile tears and political statements. Doctors are fed up with these fake political statements. Re-instate Dr Bawa Garba. Close the GMC and step down. Action speaks louder than words. Repent.

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  • He said: ‘It’s immense, it’s definitely taken us by surprise in terms of the concern and anger among doctors regarding this particular case.

    Well, no-one else in the medical profession was surprised by the response #outoftouch

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  • Council of Despair

    There is nothing in his statement that shows he understands. He is basically apologising for us feeling the way we do not because he believes there is anything fundamentally wrong at the GMC - this lack of insight should cause concern i.e. if he can't actually see the issues then what is he doing in his job?

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  • Council of Despair

    the recent vote of no confidence should make the GMC look into the matter more seriously but they are just trying to brush things off and ride the storm. I hope the appeal by Dr Bawa-Garba is successful and looks into the GMC's role. It's interesting that when we are perceived to be at fault (whether we are or not) we lose our jobs but obviously there are different rules at the GMC.

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  • Professor Terence Stephenson awarded a Knighthood

    GMC Statement

    30 Dec 2017

    Our Chair, Professor Terence Stephenson, has been recognised in the New Year Honours list for his services to healthcare and children's health.

    Terence is Nuffield Professor of Child Health at the Institute of Child Health at University College London, and Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust. Before becoming Chair of the GMC he was Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

    Charlie Massey, our Chief Executive, has congratulated him on his achievement:

    ‘On behalf of the GMC I want to congratulate Terence Stephenson on being awarded a Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours list. Throughout his career Terence has proven himself time and time again to be a strong and influential advocate for healthcare, doctors in training and in particular for children’s health services. As Chair of the General Medical Council Terence is leading reforms to improve patient safety as well as working to protect the training environment for current and future doctors. Terence continues to work as a consultant paediatrician at University College Hospital while leading on UK wide reforms to medical education and training such as the introduction of a Medical Licensing Assessment.

    ‘Before taking up the post of Chair of the GMC Terence delivered significant reforms as President of the Royal Collage of Paediatrics and Child Health and as Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. He initiated the ‘name on the bed’ programme to ensure that every patient knows who their consultant is and he has advocated on behalf of children to protect them from cigarette smoke in cars as well as leading on reports into obesity. The GMC is delighted that his contribution to healthcare and children’s health services has been recognised in this way.’

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  • never been safer, never been better.

    trebles all round

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  • Pathetic

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  • Chosen his words very carefully. It has gone beyond that . Fact that there is no resignation speaks louder.

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  • He still did not acknowledge that he regretted the GMC's decision. This is the problem - a failure to acknowledge mistakes. It's not just the GMC, this is a phenomenon plaguing the whole system right from Health Secretary to DoH and petering down to NHS Managers and even our own GPC and BMA elite. RIP NHS - these pseudocrats will never learn.

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  • Apology for what. No resources-staff,seniors or juniors as Kangaroo court expects you to saving people who are also are unlikely to survive. Please apologise to the patients whom you caused inconvenience as everybody will now refer at drop of hat to cover themselves without caring for precious resources. Please apologise to the doctor and her family you caused grief. Please also apologise to people who had to leave their livelihood/family and leave this country to escape this madness. Please also apologise for not self reflection. It goes on and on. Non committal apologies are waste of breath.

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  • doctordog.

    Apologies for a miscarriage of natural justice?
    Apologies for malicious prosecution ?
    Words are cheap.

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  • “There is no pleasure for me – I’ve been training doctors for 35 years – in seeing a young, idealistic doctor have their career ruined”

    “Have their career ruined” clearly implies that the ruination was done to them, so who did it Prof? YOU DID IT! Both the system that put them in that terrible situation, and the regulator that would have crucified them if they’d walked out of an unsafe situation and then crucified them for the inevitable tragedies that took place in that unsafe situation.
    It’s like murdering someone and saying “there’s no pleasure in it for me seeing someone have their life taken”
    Typical GMC doublespeak.

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  • Can these comments all be sent to Terence Stephenson?
    I really don’t think he gets it or else like the rest of us he has bills to pay

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  • Does nobody ever resign anymore?

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  • He says he wants to support doctors so we are not going to be in the same situatation as Dr Bawa-Garba. We are all in her situation. Everyday. Day in day out. We all work, at risk, in a inadequately funded NHS. She just had some bad luck which wasn’t her fault and as a result is a victim of the current blame culture we face in society. This is why we are scared. Doesn’t he get it?! He must go in order for the GMC to move on

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  • This is what happens when the GMC Chairman is an academic medical political rather than a front line practicing doctor with real experience of working in the front line under severe pressure! I have been an Appraiser since Appraising began, when it was developed to help doctors with their future professional development, but has now become part of Revalidation. How can I help doctors if their honest reflection can be used against them!

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  • Dear All,
    In my opinion it would be honorable for the chairman of an organisation which has had to apologise in these circumstances, for causing a chasm between themselves and those they are supposed to support, for seeing a young, idealistic doctor's career ruined when the ethos should have been one of rehabilitation and restitution, to resign.
    Regards
    Dr Paul Cundy
    GMC 2582641

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