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GMC to review why individual doctors are more likely to face manslaughter charges



The GMC’s review into gross negligence manslaughter charges against doctors will look at why there are fewer cases involving healthcare organisations compared with individuals.

The review was announced following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was struck off the medical register after the GMC appealed against its own tribunal’s ruling that she could continue to practise despite a court conviction for gross negligence manslaughter.

It will also look at whether enough consideration is given to ‘system pressures, errors or failures’ surrounding the doctor at the time of the patient’s death.

As Pulse has previously reported, it will also focus on ‘diversity matters’, after the GMC was accused of ‘inherent bias’.

The terms of reference for the review says it will look at ‘whether there is fair and consistent representation of particular groups of doctors with protected characteristics in allegations’ of gross negligence manslaughter.

And a key aim will be to explore ‘the lack of corporate manslaughter prosecutions against healthcare organisations as compared to individual healthcare professionals within organisations facing gross negligence manslaughter prosecution’.

This comes after Leicester police launched discussions about charging University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust over the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock, which ultimately saw Dr Bawa-Garba struck off from the medical register in January.

Dame Clare Marx, who is leading the GMC’s review, said that accountability for mistakes should be ‘appropriately apportioned between healthcare systems and individual doctors’.

She added: ‘Doctors are often working in an immensely pressurised system where mistakes can happen.

‘This review aims to encourage a renewed focus on a just culture, reflective practice and individual and systemic learning.’

Ian Barker, MDU senior solicitor, said the review was ‘welcome’ as ‘too many doctors are being investigated’.

He added: ‘For those who are investigated, the process needs to be swifter and fairer.

‘We believe there are a number of changes that could be made to the current law to achieve that.’

GP leaders declared at the LMCs conference in Liverpool earlier this month they have no confidence in the GMC, with Dr Zoe Norris, chair of the BMA GP Committee’s sessional subcommittee, saying that GPs have lost assurance in the GMC’s ability ‘to genuinely balance patient safety against the reality of being a doctor in the modern NHS’.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has previously said that the ‘pursuit’ of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba ‘reflects the inherent bias that exists within the GMC’, with the GMC responding that the accusations were ‘troubling and without merit’.

As Pulse revealed today, seven doctors have been struck off the medical register against the advice of the GMC’s own Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS), including Dr Bawa-Garba.

What the GMC’s gross negligence manslaughter review will focus on:

  • The quality of local investigations and the distinction between errors and failings which amount to gross negligence manslaughter.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion issues, including whether there is fair and consistent representation of particular groups of doctors with protected characteristics in allegations of gross negligence manslaughter.
  • The lack of corporate manslaughter prosecutions against healthcare organisations as compared to individual healthcare professionals within organisations facing gross negligence manslaughter prosecution, and any differences in approach between the UK countries and the possible reasons for this.
  • The role of medical expert evidence and its appropriateness in relation to the practitioners being investigated.
  • Whether sufficient regard is taken into all the circumstances in which the medical practitioner found themselves at the time of the fatality, such as system pressures, errors or failures.
  • Whether there could be more clarity in GMC guidance and communication around the role of reflective practice.
  • The extent of emotional, pastoral and other support available for medical practitioners who are the subject of an allegation or charge of gross negligence manslaughter.

Source: GMC