This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

GPs go forth

Bawa-Garba decision is a relief - but there are no winners

Editor’s blog

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 280x131px


There is little celebrating following the decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service to allow Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba to continue practising – after all, no-one should lose sight of the fact that a little boy has tragically died.

But there is one overriding emotion from the profession – relief. What Dr Bawa-Garba has been through is the worst professional nightmare any doctor could face.

In my years at Pulse, I have never seen a reaction to a story comparable to this. It got to the heart of doctors’ fears: systematic pressures that make mistakes more likely; taking the blame for those mistakes; being criminalised for trying to do your job; being left to do a job that no one person can do on their own; having your pressured actions scrutinised without that context being taken into account. There are many more.

This case got to the heart of doctors’ fears

I’ve been talking about the case on the radio in the past couple of days. I’ve tried to explain that, when I or the radio presenter makes a mistake at work, then we might publish a headline with a typo, or pronounce someone’s name wrong. When you, reader, make a mistake it could lead to a death.

The verdict is not a cause for celebration. There are no winners: not the Adcocks, Dr Bawa-Garba and certainly not the GMC.

But what the verdict does is provide some acknowledgement that doctors do an impossible job, and that they should not see their career brought to an abrupt halt for a mistake that could happen to anyone.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at

Rate this article  (4.55 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (9)

  • Absolutely true.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well said.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thank you Jamie. So few out there in the forum, whichever side they sit, have the foresight or the will to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, but that some have to make so many life-changing decisions that even the few mistakes of the conscientious can have devastating effects. It’s not how many mistakes, it is the nature of them that makes the difference. And the factors that promote more mistakes to happen.

    Cathy Welch

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well said Jaimie; what is even more galling is that for years the message coming from up on high was "less blame, more learning". The Bawa-Garba case was the exact opposite: blame a colleague to their professional destruction. I wonder how many of my colleagues-including myself-would have been brought to personal and financial ruin through such a harrowing process. The GMC needs to take a long, hard look at itself and if the law needs to change to decriminalise such cases then so be it. A system so intent on finding a scapegoat will eventually scare professionals away.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How can a doctor be left to cover 3/4 other doctors ? How can a junior doctor be expected to cover for a senior doctor's absence ? How can they be expected to function in a normal manner in such abnormal circumstances ?
    For example, Dr BG was condemned for not looking at an XR earlier.
    But, she was not sitting on her hands watching TV. She was doing lumbar punctures and attending to multiple children in multiple sites she SHOULD NOT have been covering.
    It is a shame on the British system and justice that a doctor is expected to do the impossible and be in multiple places at the same time.
    The reward in the UK for covering 4 other doctors and doing 4 times your workload is not a Thank you, but Gross Negligence Manslaughter.
    Both the BMA and GMC should define safe working, but they do not.
    The GMC is quick to condemn. Why does it not define safe parameters of work?
    I blame the BMA for not looking after its workforce.
    Does the employer [ the Trust ] not have a duty of care to its employee, Dr BG ?
    What is going on in the UK ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In any case, my opinion is this case belongs to the realms of lunacy.
    Poor Jack was UNRESPONSIVE AT ADMISSION. pH near 7. in 2 hours, his pH was 7.24.

    He had IMPROVED and was so WELL AT 7 PM, he was transferred from CAU to a general ward.
    Yet, Dr BG is condemned as GNM for negligently disregarding decline and deterioration, when Jack actually IMPROVED remarkably UNDER HER CARE. He declined AFTER he left her care.
    How the expert witness can express this opinion is beyond my logic, irrespective of all other circumstances.
    In fact, I believe had Jack remained under Dr BG's care, he would not have got the ACEI, as she did not write it up and he would have got better and gone home.
    I believe it is because he was TRANSFERRED from her care that he died!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Excellent Editorial! No one unscathed! GMC and BMA both seen as Failing a Junior Doctor in a dangerous ill-supported workplace which is more common than acknowledged!
    Hospital medicine needs urgent reform!
    Primary Care is underfunded and under-resourced too.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Advise to anyone contemplating to come and work in the NHS from overseas; especially following the GMC/HEE campaign of Earn, Learn and Return- PLEASE STAY AWAY. As their logo states; EARN: let me be clear their is nothing to earn here, you pay a high cost of living and tax with the pay not reflecting current inflation, don't forget the other expences of sitting the IELTS,PLAB,paying the Home office fees (btw thats for 3yrs so that you cannot settle or train here) and to top it you also have to a fee to pay for using the NHS (yep that's true). As for the LEARN- you are intended to fill in the rota gaps here; as usual service masquerading as training. They talk like as if patients are only found in the UK. So what's left is RETURN i,e f*** o**

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Very well said,everyone especially All for one.A careful examination of the evidence indicates that in spite of huge difficulties Hadiza actually performed brilliantly and if the enalapril had not been given Jack would have gone home the next day.The GNM verdict is a delusional charade which we should not buy into.Justice and Right must prevail ;otherwise England will end up without clinicians....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say