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Independents' Day

GMC to review how medical manslaughter charges are applied to doctors

The GMC is set to review how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice following doctors’ concerns after its successful high court appeal to strike off a doctor convicted of the offence.

The review will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK, and will focus on doctors’ 'reflections' and support for doctors in raising concerns.

The move follows a High Court ruling, which found in favour of the GMC’s decision to strike off Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba from its register.

Dr Bawa-Garba received a 24 month suspended sentence for gross negligence manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court in 2015 following the death of a six-year-old patient four years earlier.

She was declared fit to practise by the GMC's Medical Practitioners Tribunal service, but the GMC took the MPTS to High Court in a bid to appeal the decision, arguing that it did not have the authority to effectively go against the conviction.

GMC chair Professor Terence Stephenson said that the GMC 'recognise the strength of feeling expressed by many doctors'.

He added: ‘In recent months I have been engaged in workshops and constructive discussions with medical leaders on the issue of medical manslaughter. That is urgent work because, although in this case the court has ruled that the MPTS had no powers to unpick the criminal court conviction, it is clear that there is a critical need to examine the wider issues around how gross negligent manslaughter cases are initiated and investigated, the expertise and consistency applied to those investigations, and the role of reflection in such matters.

‘As part of our commitment to learn and improve matters we will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK to explore how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice, in situations where the risk of death is a constant and in the context of systemic pressure. That work will include a renewed focus on reflection and provision of support for doctors in raising concerns.'

Professor Stephenson said the GMC 'recognise that any doctor, no matter how experienced, can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure'.

Readers' comments (15)

  • End of the line?

    anyway .. not to worry .. Jeremy Hunt is concerned and is looking into things ...... Lol Lol Lol Lol dont hold your breath

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  • is the GMC worried they might have actually overstepped the mark and misjudged the professions reaction to this? They've really opened up a lot of resentment......and anger.... towards the conditions and we now find ourselves working in and the scrutiny we face. The NHS is going to suffer because of this case.... doctors will now start pulling up the drawbridges and look to minimise their personal risks by reducing their exposure to the high pressure areas where their skills are most desperately needed e.g. Emergency medicine, General medicine, General Paediatrics etc. This is going to make the UK health care crises worse. Well done GMC! give yourself a pat in the back and collect your MBEs and OBes while the service goes from bad to worse....

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  • David Banner

    The current “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t” approach to reflection is intolerable. And the same applies to many other areas we are being pressured on (antibiotics, referral rates, analgesia, number of investigations etc). Until they sort this mess out, my advice is to keep referring, investigating, prescribe antibiotics and “reflect” on fluffy irrelevant rubbish, NEVER implicate yourself.

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  • Reflection? Political words to defer and hope people will forget and give it a whitewash. No, we will not forget like a deep painful scar. The case law this brings sets a precedent and we will fight it to the end or we are all doomed. Please increase the jail cells for doctors if we lost as doctors cannot prevent people from dying. Tax and death is certain, which one do you not understand?

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  • Council of Despair

    Last Man Standing | GP Partner/Principal30 Jan 2018 4:53pm

    got it in one!

    sadly, this is exactly where we are headed.

    it's crazy as only recently the GMC said that doctors should expect to be refered to the GMC at least once in their career essentially implying it is part of the job, it's acknowledged that our work is very risky and at some point we will make a mistake BUT this ruling suggests any mistakes will not be tolerated so every day we are playing russion roulette with our careers - now , tell me how can it be 'the best time to be a GP' ?

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