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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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  • This comment has been deleted

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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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  • Stephenson, says he takes "no pleasure" in seeing a young doctor's career ended. I take "no pleasure" in seeing an executive's tenure ended but he should do the decent thing and go. Let's be generous and let him go quietly, but go he must.

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  • Hold your heads in shame, GMC. You have always been a disgrace to the medical profession and will continue to be. As a direct result of this case, my wife and I who have worked tirelessly for the NHS for the last 15 years will not do it any longer from May. We are not going to be personally culpable for the multitude of systemic failings any longer. Heads need to roll at the GMC.

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  • how does it help dr bawa-garba if professor completely understand?? show your understanding by apologising to dr bawa-garba and reinstate her. that would be understanding completely.

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  • Is there a function in the GMC constitution that would allow a petition for his resignation?

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  • I agree with the other doctors posting here.

    I was appalled by the email that we all received from Prof Stephenson. He had completely misjudged his colleagues feelings on this matter.

    Prof Stephenson really has very little option but to resign.

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  • PETITION TO REINSTATE DR BAWA-GARBA PLEASE

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  • The GMC continues to further demonstrate dangerous lack of insight, it says it was surprised at the feeling of backlash from amongst the profession!

    Talk about ivory towers, and grass roots....

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ladies and gentlemen, what Prof TS said could easily reflect his own opinion (in the manner this interview was conducted) , and hence, does not necessarily represent the official announcement from the almighty GMC .

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  • Vinci Ho

    Remember what he said in 2015?

    He told The Telegraph: “Doctors see things that many other people will never see in a lifetime. Just as when soldiers go to Afghanistan, you don’t want the first time they see at somebody who has suffered terrible injuries to be when they’re dealing with an emergency in the heat of the moment.

    “We need to try and prepare them for that in advance,” he said.

    “Army personnel have told me that they would not begin resilience training just as they’re about to deploy and I fully understand that. The army discovered some time ago that soldiers under pressure aren’t helped if they are just told to keep a stiff upper lip. It’s time medicine reached a similar conclusion – and acted on it.''

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  • Vinci Ho

    So his speech was encrypted:

    We see things other people never see in a lifetime: that includes the way being treated by our regulator(s).

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  • Any significant event audit/portfolio can be used as evidence so how can GPs reflect and learn?

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  • Macaque

    Simples! GMC listened to the Daily Fail and did the wrong thing.

    GMC slogan "Working with doctors, working for patients" should be "Screwing good doctors, ignoring institutional failures, working with Daily Fail readers"

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  • pls accept mistake.Reinstate doctor.Pls learn lessons for future.

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  • To all my colleagues who have written on this thread. You all have essentially signed death warrants for yourselves. The GMC and Terence will now look at all these comments, use their friends in higher places to track you down, and open cases against you all and strike you off.
    Then GMC will come out with a statement, saying we are responsible for making medical profession better and safer, why, coz we eliminated all who raised concern, and could’ve been human enough to possibly make a mistake, based on the emotional responses on this thread.
    Welcome to GMC- General Mechanical Doctors Corporation, oh and by the way, the remaining doctors will have their annual subscription increased, in case we need more legal money to sack them as well.

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  • I suppose we must be glad for even a smidgeon of insight into the huge damage caused by the GMC.

    The GMC is an executive branch of the Department of Health in all but name, populated by placemen, crawlers and has-beens.

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  • It's not just us he should be apologising, this has upset doctors around the world. The GMC's actions have consequences beyond these shores. He should resign.

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  • On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble;
    His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
    The gale, it plies the saplings double,
    And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

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  • truly outrageous.Resign now please.GMC does not represent me nor my colleagues . If they want to protect patients I propose they pay for the fees themselves.

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  • The curious incident of the Consultant at 1630 [SH}

    Dr BG was convicted because the court accepted the opinion of Dr Nadel who stated regarding the blood results
    " ANY COMPETENT junior doctor would have realised the condition [Sepsis ]"
    Therefore, Dr BG was guilty of manslaughter because she thought it was dehydration.
    HOWEVER, Dr Riordan, the Consultant DID NOT realise the condition when shown the blood tests at 1630.
    Logically, Therefore, Dr Nadels statement is factually incorrect in that the blood tests was not realised by a Consultant.
    The Conviction is intrinsically flawed and wrong within itself.
    Prof Stephenson is a Paediatrician.
    He should be writing to the Lord Chief Justice to point out that the blood tests are equally applicable to ACEI AKI due to dehydration caused by V+D. I have seen similar results in adults.
    I feel the basic tenet of the Conviction that the blood tests are typical of Sepsis is incorrect and the PROOF is found in the Judgement the Consultant did not realise it.
    The explanation [ dear God ] was that DR BG did not HIGHLIGHT it.
    This is madness. How can you highlight something you think is something else ?
    It is upto the Consultant to recognise it. Since he did not, the Conviction is unsafe within its own logic.

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  • I agree. If TS has any insight at all or cared for the medical profession he would resign from the GMC

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  • I see no reflection from prof TS while his organisation tells all doctors to reflect honestly and now we know that this poor unfortunate paediatric doctor was prosecuted on her reflection while the larger wider failings of the NHS did not get mentioned. We all are taking risk everyday due to failing support and services and it is a matter of time that another disaster will strike and another doctor will become a scapegoat once again.
    In her case her reflection was used as incriminating evidence. So Prof TS we all would like you to honestly reflect on this poor judgement of the GMC and please resign or else you will be forced out by the anger felt by the profession.

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  • Certainly too little and too late. Especially as the GMC is seeking the power to strike Drs off even without a fair trial!! I think the chair should resign and open the door to a new leadership that will review the whole process and certainly re-instate Dr Garba.

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  • Been a GP 18yrs & the treatment of Dr Bawa-Garba has shaken my faith in the justice system, the GMC & my profession. If I was 10yrs younger I’d emigrate, 10yrs older I’d retire yet I’m trapped in an understaffed & under resourced system that is unsafe for both patients & myself. I am genuinely fearful that if there is an adverse outcome on my watch there is a real risk I could be criminalised & lose my livelihood. GMC should be fighting this grotesque scenario not perpetuating it. The Truly Exceptionally Bad thing here is that Hazida has been hung out to dry for what has been an extremely traumatic event for all concerned. She should have been supported not vilified. Condolences to poor Jack’s family but this is not justice. Shame on you for not seeing the bigger picture. Your position surely now is untenable.

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  • I couldn't agree MORE with most of these comments.

    1) Hollow words
    2) If he had any professional compass - he would resign - NOW
    3) I hope that Dr Bawa-Garba's appeal is successful; if so his position will be untenable.

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  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    I agree with "semi-retired" - petition to reinstate Dr BG.?
    This case has made me consider and change my role as a GP. We've never been under such scrutiny and pressure, increasing demands and sky-high indemnity fees. I feel I cant wait to retire - shame thats a long way off for me.

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  • He should resign , is there any way a petition can be organised or is it in hand ?

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  • Has Charlie Massey even bothered to talk. He is deluded and power crazy. He needs to step down from the ivory tower he has been sitting in!
    They care about patients yet have private insurances for their staff.
    Do the public or media know about this

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  • I have no desire to stay anonymous. As a retired medical director I spent many hours with distressed doctors agonising about adverse outcomes, many of which were not predictable. Bad practice or bad luck? Very rarely simple bad practice and virtually never in isolation. This death was almost predictable given all the factors (systemic failings) involved and so the GMC decision is the most appalling act of scapegoating I have witnessed. The GMC should be better than this and admit it made a mistake. As Nick Ross pointed out this hasn't cost a life but it has cost a good doctor her career. Time for an appeal and some GMC humility. I stand with all the other doctors doing their best with no hope of GMC support

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  • I'm leaving medicine ..wish you all peace..

    These guys have and are damaging kind caring youngsters. Sadly some of our own appraisers are wrecking older GPs too.

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