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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)

  • 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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