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Independents' Day

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)

  • 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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  • 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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