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Tribunal 'wrong' to allow doctor to continue to practise, GMC tells High Court

A doctor who was let off with a 12-month suspension after her actions resulted in the death of a six-year-old boy should be struck off 'to protect the public', the High Court heard yesterday.

The Court of Appeal heard that the GMC wants the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) decision to be quashed and replaced with erasure because suspension 'is not sufficient to protect the public'.

But the barrister defending the trainee paediatrician, Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, said she was a 'good and safe' doctor who had made errors due to 'systemic failures'.

Some 800 medics and other professionals have signed a letter supporting Bawa-Garba and more than 10,000 have signed a petition backing her, highlighting a large number of hospital trust failures.

Mr Justice Ouseley said before the appeal hearing began that that 'obviously this is tragic case all around and we fully understand that'.

Jack Adcock died as a result of a series of blunders from cardiac arrest brought on by sepsis after he was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.

Dr Bawa-Garba was later convicted of gross negligence manslaughter and received a suspended two-year jail sentence in November 2015 – a sentence which she failed to appeal earlier this year.

The MPTS decided in June that erasing the doctor from the GMC register would be ‘disproportionate’ and recommended a 12-month suspension instead.

But Ivan Hare, QC, representing the GMC, said the MPTS 'got it wrong'.

Mr Hare told the court: 'We say this is fundamentally a very straight-forward case.'

He added: 'The judge had correctly directed the jury [in the crown court] that the prosecution had shown that the defendant's treatment was exceptionally bad.'

Mr Hare also said that the judgment sentencing remarks had been ‘clear that the inevitable outcome in her conviction would be the end of her career’.

But Sean Larkin, QC, representing Dr Bawa-Garba, said: 'One has to ask why this good and safe doctor made these errors on this day, and we submit that the systemic failures are relevant.

'We submit that this did not go behind the jury's finding.'

Upon conclusion of yesterday's hearing, Mr Ouseley said the judgment would be reserved until a later date.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: 'The court has reserved judgment in this case and we await the outcome…

'This has been a tragic case and we acknowledge the strength of feeling expressed by many doctors.

'Our decision to appeal the doctor's suspension was not taken lightly.

'We would stress that cases such as this, where a doctor has been convicted of gross negligent manslaughter, are extremely rare.'

Readers' comments (23)

  • I understand the Tribunal took into account the systemic failures in the hospital and the pressures on the day. Nothing can justify the loss of a young life but GMC trying to enforce their views on the Tribunal raises questions of credibility of both the GMC and the MTP.

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  • Shocking reflection on the state of the medical profession in this country. There but for the grace of God go I and righteous doctors.

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  • I really hope the doctor has good representation too.

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  • "trainee paediatrician"
    - So if a trainee has made a clinical error, then surely questions should be asked about the training and supervision provided, rather than making a scapegoat of one person.

    Who let this trainee on to the SHO/ registrar rota (interview panel, person designing the interview etc)? Should they be done for manslaughter or struck off?
    Who did their last supervision review/ ARCP? Should they be done for manslaughter or struck off?
    Who was the consultant that day, who delgated responsibility to this trainee? The GMC guidance clearly says that if you delegate (rather than refer) you retain ultimate responsibility for the action, therefore should this consultant be done for manslaughter or struck off?

    I am not trying to get everyone struck off, it just seems wrong that this particular person is being scapegoated.

    If the error was as a result of the trainee turning up drunk or taking a load of cocaine it might be a different issue. If it is related to clinical performance in a training role, then the other people listed above should be considered just as responsible as the person that they delegated the task to.

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  • This poor poor woman - didn’t the investigation find 80 odd systems errors? They were understaffed with doctors and nurses and she was hung out to dry for this, the jury weren’t even allowed to know about the systems errors as they had been ‘fixed’. So true all of us could have been in this position at one time or another - who reported her to the police in the first place???

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  • This could have been any doctor at any point in their career. I wonder what the GMC's real agenda is.

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  • Surely there is a need for an independent public enquiry into the GMC?

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  • This indeed is a very sad case with no winners other than barristers.
    What means "the decision to appeal has not been taken lightly?" Who has pushed for it? Where is the transparency??

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  • GMC policy direction makes me very uncomfortable. Is it a hostile adversary looming over my colelagues and I? The interest of public confidence in the system are not being well served by them.

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  • Happy to contribute towards crowd funding to support this doctors legal challenge against GMC, if needed.

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  • Obi is absolutely right, where was the training, supervision etc Unscepted makes valid points about the independence of the GMC and MTP. Nearly 80 systemic failures. No-one is looking good out of all of this. As notice for lunch states, this will simply be more income for the legal profession. Again, we need a choice of registers, not the one monopoly we have, there is no 'choice' for us, and if we have no faith in the GMC we are still obliged to pay their fees and salaries, even when we think they are detrimental for the profession. Thus is an archaic system that needs to be revised. An independent review of the GMC would be a start. As would publication of their salaries.

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  • Scapegoating

    Pure and simple scapegoating. I really hope the judges see through this for what it is and throw this out, admonishing the GMC. An "excellent" trainee makes the wrong diagnosis in good faith in a challenging environment (multiple system failures) and then makes a genuine mistake with a DNACPR.

    Imagine if she looked a bit different- no scarf and her skin was not so dark, would she be persecuted like this. Who are the GMC exactly 'protecting the public' from- the 'competent' trainee making genuine and understandable errors in a tough set of circumstances leading to a tragic death OR the dangerous foreign doctor caricature?

    See Lavinia Woodward.

    Food for thought?

    Please could our 'spokespersons' speak more forcefully about this disgraceful situation and stand up and confront this disgusting injustice, however inconvenient it is.

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  • What an appalling miscarriage of justice. Surely the conviction is unsound if all of the evidence was unheard....If things continue like this in Blightey the mass exodus will continue, and there I was thinking of returning back to practice in the UK!

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  • David Banner

    There is a worrying trend of sentencing doctors for "manslaughter". How can this be right?? The doctor made a wrong diagnosis, failed to check abnormal results, and mistakenly thought a DNACPR was in place for a child with Downs Syndrome. Yes, a catalogue of mistakes, deserving of a GMC tribunal, but MANSLAUGHTER?? There was no malice, no deliberate neglect, she even attempted (delayed) CPR. This was NOT manslaughter.

    Also, the zealots who pillory us for "abusing" antibiotics should realise that if these drugs had been prescribed despite the provisional diagnosis of gastroenteritis then the child would probably have lived. So there you go folks, do you want a wrap on the knuckles for over-prescribing or a manslaughter conviction for withholding?

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  • Publish the full facts of the case. Who was the Senior doctor on the shift? What were the systemic failures..sounds like a travesty of justice that these factors were with held from the Jury..the excuse that they were remedied does not pertain to the shift in question. The decision to hide them from the jury does not appear transparent. Why have they allowed her to continue to work. This woman must have nerves of steel.

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  • What i have learnt over the years is that in the NHS your colour matters a lot.You may not know your medicine but your colour will protect you from the complaints.

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  • Clear case of scapegoating. It is not unusual when it is busy not to see results for hours as everyone including the porters, labs are flooded. Learning by cases makes one a better doctor. The GMC is wasting time and money and they are not fit for purpose.

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  • I would suggest independent review of the whole episode including the roles of the Trust, Staffing and the GMC.

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  • This case is very serious and exemplifies a lot of what has gone wrong with medical regulation. Surely it's time for a public enquiry into how the regulators have been getting the balance so wrong?

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  • I know this outstanding lady doctor since I was at University of Southampton studying Medicine where she was doing her first degree in Biochemistry / Biomedical Science prior to her gaining a place to study Medicine at Leicester . She has always been someone of exemplary character , inspirational to others and focused on her goal.
    I have known her personally and She is one of the most caring and capable people I have have ever met. Strangely, my own 10 year old Down’s syndrome brother died of a pneumonia/ sepsis case which was clearly mismanaged . If all the doctors were brought to book for each patient dying under their care then Would there be a single one of us left practising ?

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  • My son was aspiring to be a medics [secured A* x10 in gcse] but after reading this in news he decided rather to go for Economics.
    This is really appalling.I recently have reduced my threshold of admissions and investigations which unfortunately would lead to extra financial strain on dying NHS.sorry

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  • Here we know the doctor convicted of manslaughter, but not the 79 systemic problems. Why not, Pulse? What were these failures and why are they withheld in a public trial ?

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  • Maybe a dangerous precedent for GMC, that someone convicted can continue to practice?

    Details should be clear from the appeal, good luck to Dr Bawa-Garba, on the face of it just one of those times the holes in the Swiss cheese line up to let a misfortune through. We've all been there.

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