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Doctors practise in ‘a climate of fear’ after Bawa-Garba case, says GMC review chair

The chair of an independent review of gross negligence manslaughter charges in medicine has said the medical profession is ‘at a crisis point’.

In an interim report, ahead of the review’s final report in early 2019, chair Leslie Hamilton described doctors as working in ‘a climate of toxic fear’ following the Dr Bawa-Garba case.

The case saw Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba struck off the medical register following a conviction of gross negligence manslaughter, only to be reinstated after an appeal of the High Court decision.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘Doctors report that this case has created a climate of fear within the medical profession, which is compounded by the increasing pressure of work, particularly for many trainees, who feel unsupported…

‘The medical profession is at a crisis point. There is a climate of toxic fear.’ 

This comes after the chair of the GMC apologised to doctors for the ‘fear and anguish’ caused by the Dr Bawa-Garba case.

Meanwhile, the GMC’s chief executive Charlie Massey told Pulse he ‘didn’t anticipate the degree of outcry’ following the case.

Mr Hamilton added in the interim report that the review’s working group, which includes former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, meets monthly to discuss responses to the review. 

He said: ‘One of the messages coming through very forcibly so far is about the importance of a competent and fair local investigation in the aftermath of an unexpected death of a patient which focuses on what has gone wrong and why, and what lessons can be learned, rather than on finding someone to blame.

The review, which launched in February 2018, is investigating why there are fewer GNM cases involving healthcare organisations compared with individuals.

It will also address concerns over whether enough consideration is given to ‘system pressures, errors or failures’ surrounding the doctor at the time of the patient’s death, and to ‘diversity matters’, after the GMC was accused of ‘inherent bias’.