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Independents' Day

GMC fails in case against surgeon exonerated of manslaughter

A fitness-to-practise tribunal has found against the GMC, after it pursued a case against a surgeon who was cleared of manslaughter charges.

Mr David Sellu was jailed in 2013 after the death of a patient, but his conviction for gross negligent manslaughter was quashed in 2016 and he has been working under supervision since.

However, the GMC continued to pursue fitness-to-practise proceedings against Mr Sellu after the conviction was quashed.

In a decision released today (Tuesday 6 March), the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) found that all the GMC’s allegations were not proved.

The decision follows the uproar over the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who the GMC took to High Court after she was found fit to practise by the MPTS – a verdict which led to health secretary Jeremy Hunt instigating a review into medical manslaughter charges led by Professor Sir Norman Williams, the former president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mr Sellu, a colorectal surgeon, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in 2013 after James Hughes, a patient he had performed an operation to repair a perforated bowel on, developed abdominal sepsis and died. After spending time in prison, Mr Sellu’s appeal against the conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2016.

Despite his conviction being quashed, the GMC claimed his fitness to practise was impaired due to a series of faults with his care, including a failure to review Mr Hughes, arrange a CT scan, prescribe antibiotics and make arrangements to perform urgent surgery.

However, the MPTS ruling concluded: that all of these allegations were ‘not proved’.

It said: ‘Having now found and announced all of the alleged facts “not proved”, there is no basis on which this tribunal can proceed to consider whether or not your fitness to practise is impaired.’

As a result, the interim order - which placed conditions on his GMC registration - is ‘thereby revoked with immediate effect’, it added.

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at the Medical Protection Society, who represented Mr Sellu, said: ‘The MPTS Tribunal’s conclusion that none of the GMC’s allegations against David Sellu are proved will be very welcome news for him and his family. We are pleased to have helped Mr Sellu quash his manslaughter conviction in November 2016, clear his name, and continue his career in medicine. But we know this is also a matter of principle for the wider profession.

‘The MPTS Tribunal heard all of the evidence in this case and tested it rigorously. As we have said before, they are best placed to weigh up all of the factors affecting a doctor’s fitness to practise.

‘By contrast, a criminal court is rarely the best place to hold a doctor to account for what has happened in a complex clinical environment. There has never been a more important time to debate this issue, and we will be calling on the Government review led by Professor Sir Norman Williams to address it.’

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘Although Dr Sellu’s criminal conviction was overturned on appeal there remained a very serious allegation that he failed to provide good clinical care to his patient, Mr Hughes, who sadly died while in hospital in 2010.

‘As there remained a significant dispute about the facts it could only be resolved by referring the case to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

‘The Tribunal, after hearing from all of the witnesses and experts, has resolved the dispute of facts, in the doctor’s favour.’

N.B. This article was corrected on 09:27 to show that Dr Sellu was a colorectal surgeon, and not an orthopaedic surgeon as previously described.

Readers' comments (30)

  • Three billboards:-

    GMC out of control
    And still no action or sanctions
    How come, the Professional Standards Agency?

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I wrote before , there is clearly a war between MPTS and GMC . The war has now become egregious and grotesque. And the health secretary let this happen under his watch .

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  • *grabs popcorn*

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  • For accuracy purposes, Mr David Sellu is a General and Colorectal Surgeon, not an Orthopaedic surgeon. The patient in relation to this case had originally undergone private elective knee surgery and developed abdominal complications during the post operative recovery period at which point he was referred to Mr Sellu. Kindly correct your article.

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  • Thank you for this - it has been corrected

  • Guess the GMC are going to take it to court now??

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  • From the BBC.

    Another Doctor scapegoated for failings in the service.

    A surgeon who had his manslaughter conviction quashed says "justice has not been done" for the patient's family.

    David Sellu, 69, served 15 months of a two-and-a-half-year prison term for manslaughter by gross negligence.

    James Hughes, 66, was under Mr Sellu's care when he died at the Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow in 2010.

    On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal ruled the November 2013 conviction was not safe.

    The appeal judges said the trial judge did not give the jury adequate legal guidance on what gross negligence meant.

    'Justice not done'
    Speaking after the conviction was quashed, Mr Sellu said there was a range of factors which contributed to Mr Hughes's death, including problems with the whole system at the hospital.

    "I think for the sake of that poor man and his family justice has not really been done," he said.

    "It has been retribution, but I don't really believe that they've been served as well as they should have been."

    Mr Hughes became ill after a routine knee replacement carried out by another surgeon.

    Mr Sellu later carried out surgery to repair a perforated bowel, but there had been delays in that carrying operation. Mr Hughes died two days later.

    The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to seek a retrial after David Sellu's conviction was quashed
    The original case against Mr Sellu, of Hillingdon, was based on the standard of his care over about 25 hours.

    Mr Sellu argued he knew Mr Hughes needed an urgent operation, but an anaesthetist was not available for several hours and it was not safe to move the patient to the nearby hospital.

    "It really was another routine day. A busy day of course, but I'd been used to working in this sort of way for many, many years," Mr Sellu said.

    Mr Sellu's medical licence was suspended when he was convicted and would only be reinstated after a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing.

    The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to seek a retrial.

    In a statement, Mr Hughes' family said the doctor had "served his sentence".

    "Our father's suffering was not prioritised as the emergency it so clearly was," they said.

    A spokesman for Clementine Churchill Hospital said the "original prosecution was a criminal case led by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police".

    "Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Hughes," he said.

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  • I often sit with my head in hands as I consider it all. The GMC appears to have taken it upon itself to act like a Modern Day Charles Lynch (credited with the term Lynching) whose express purpose now includes providing an emollient to an upset family and retribution sans blood and gore, labelled as justice.

    As a profession we are utterly spineless and our permissive attitude towards are own abuse (which we often portray as a martyr-like nobility) means that we in effect invite this kind of treatment.

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    C Massey's watch of the GMC has taking protecting patients mantra to ridiculous extremes, where doctors who pose no risk to public are persecuted with tabloid like lust for blood and retribution, and a pound of flesh is inadequate/

    An entire life of toil to gain medical degrees, and training, and thousands of patients previously helped count for nothing as their careers are ground to dust.

    Dr BG helped probably thousands of patients safely and without further incident, over the years after the case that led to her scape-goating.

    She is clearly a benefit to patients and society, not a risk, yet the GMC politically tabloid pleasing agenda was forced against its own MPTS panel, who got their decision right.

    There are clearly cases where doctors such as the American Olympic team doctor are best kept in prison, and the public protected against them forever, but the GMC has got its lynching hood on, and is making decisions based on ethnicity and perceived risk by tabloids, rather than fact.

    The true membership of the GMC - its doctors, who are the peers who should be involved in self regulation, have made themselves abundantly clear in this publication, and in the wider press. The GMC is wrong and should rescind its decisions and have some hubris and admit fault.

    If on reflection the leadership of the GMC can't see this error - they should hang their heads in shame and resign, or be sacked, as any member organisation should be able to remove its chief executive when things go wrong.

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  • what if alldoctors simply refused to pay the GMC fee?

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