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BMA calls for specialist police unit to investigate medical manslaughter

The BMA has called for a national police unit that is dedicated to investigating gross negligence manslaughter cases in healthcare.

In its evidence to the GMC’s independent review of how the charges are applied in medicine, the BMA said the specialist unit would ensure investigations are ‘processed promptly, reliably and consistently’.

This comes after junior doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba was charged with gross negligence manslaughter (GNM) and consequently struck off the medical register by the GMC, before winning an appeal of the court decision and reinstated earlier this week.

The BMA said in its evidence that not having a specialist police unit ‘has a direct impact on the length of time the investigation takes’.

The evidence said investigations can take up to three years, during which time ‘the doctor affected is under a great deal of stress and a NHS system that is already strained may be denied the services of that particular doctor’.

I added: ‘If a national police unit is established to investigate GNM cases in healthcare, it would ameliorate the process and reduce delays.

‘The benefit would be that investigations would be processed promptly, reliably and consistently.’

The BMA previously also called for a specialist police unit in its evidence to the Government’s ‘rapid review’ of gross negligence manslaughter charges, which reported back in June.

But the Norman Williams review report said ‘the police themselves did not support this proposal, arguing that there are too few cases and that it would result in the loss of important local knowledge in investigations’.

The GMC’s review of gross negligence manslaughter charges will focus on ‘the lack of corporate manslaughter prosecutions against healthcare organisations as compared to individual healthcare professionals’.

This comes after Leicester police launched and later dropped discussions about charging University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust over the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock, which ultimately saw Dr Bawa-Garba struck off from the medical register in January.

The BMA’s evidence to the review also called for:

  • GNM cases in healthcare to be referred to the police only after consultation with the chief coroner in England and Wales to ensure that only the cases that warrant further investigation are referred.
  • The CPS to devise guidance clarifying the application of law to GNM cases in healthcare.
  • The GMC's use of 'the public confidence criterion' to be reviewed to determine what members of the public would really expect in cases involving clinical error.
  • Reflections in all education and training documents, such as e-portfolios and all annual appraisals, to be legally protected.
  • Medical experts commissioned to carry out local investigations to be 'truly independent of the healthcare organisation of the doctor being investigated'.

The GMC's review, which is being led by Leslie Hamilton, is expected to report back at the beginning of next year.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Yes but they need to look into the corporate side as well and be able to investigate and prosecute the Trust and organisations as well.Not just individuals.

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  • Matters of medical manslaughter are already going to Crown Courts from negligence concerns raised either through Solicitors/ High Courts or through GMC. Even cases of negligence and not manslaughter like the recent case of an Orthopaedic Surgeon from BMI Fawkham can end up in prosecution and police involvement.
    BMA calling for Police units is shooting the profession in the foot as it may turn out to be counter productive and very damaging for a professional who will be going through parallel investigations by various Agencies. What if the professional was to be absolved finally - the damage done will be irreparable.
    Who is still paying his/her subs? Action by BMA just for the sake of showing they are doing something is worse than inertia of which we complain.

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  • The BMA are another organisation like the GMC who I have no faith in.But at least you can stop paying the subs.They seem to do nothing for us.

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  • This is dumb. Medical manslaughter doesn't exist, it's been made up by people with vested interests. We need a reality check. Serious diseases can kill you! Failure to diagnose and treat them earlier should never result in criminal prosecution. The BMA are playing into the hands of the GMC, CPS and law courts with this approach.

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  • BMA trying to win 'Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest'.

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  • AlanAlmond

    What we absolutely DONT need is yet another organization set up to monitor and investigate medicine. You set up a body to do one thing and soon enough it finds a reason to do something else. It expands its remit, starts charging you fees and it morphs into yet another enormous pain in the arse. That the BMA can’t see this is absolutely typical. We need fewer of these statutory bodies not more. A dedicated police unit to investigate Drs? The very idea brings out a cold sweat and sends shivers down my spine. What a completly dumb idea from a union incapable of getting anything right.

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  • The evidence said investigations can take up to three years, during which time ‘the doctor affected is under a great deal of stress and a NHS system that is already strained may be denied the services of that particular doctor’.

    These halfwits in the BMA think their main responsibility is to be guardians of the NHS; what is the DHSC for. Do they understand doctors in private healthcare can be charged for manslaughter too.

    I just wonder how many doctors still pay their subs to keep the BMA going or is it now being subsidised by NHS. With this group of ignorant colleagues, so-called 'top or leading doctors', the profession needs no enemies.

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  • The "special" units performance would be measured by the number of prosecutions it brought, not by the number of inappropriate investigations it dropped. What insane idea by the BMA.

    There have only been around 25 successful corporate manslaughter convictions, with one in healthcare. To prove a gross breach in duty of care by senior management is very complex, I would support a special unit for this, just as there is for financial crime. But money has always been more important than people's lives.

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  • FFS BMA!
    Tackle the root of problem and don't try and make it bigger.
    Have you investigated for example why these charges are not brought in Scotland? Perhaps you could send Shaggy and Scooby Doo up to investigate.
    How many more premature deaths would there be in this country if there were no Drs and nurses, because thats where it is ultimately heading?
    Grow some and act on our behalves (and intelligently) now.
    Conflict of interest: Dr and future patient

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  • The BMA has been helpful but this is a dumb move. If anyone kills someone the law already exist to deal with this. Judging a clinician who because of how busy it is and the system constraints in the same light as someone intentionally stabbing someone is plain wrong. Unable to help or failing to help is not the same as intentionally killing or assisting in killing.

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