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Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba: ‘I hope this case will improve patient safety’

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has spoken out after being reinstated to the medical register by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Speaking to the BBC, she said she hoped the case would improve working conditions for junior doctors, lead to better recognition of sepsis and improve patient safety.

Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off earlier this year when the High Court ruled in favour of the GMC, overturning the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service’s decision to suspend rather than erase Dr Bawa-Garba in light of a 2015 manslaughter conviction in the criminal courts.

The MPTS had concluded that Dr Bawa-Garba on the night of the tragic death of six-year-old Jack Adcock in 2011 had been working under significant systemic pressures, which contributed to the death alongside her clinical errors. And yesterday, the appeal court ruled that suspension was more appropriate than erasure, given the circumstances.

In an episode of Panorama, aired on the BBC on Monday evening, Dr Bawa-Garba said: ‘I went for what was more common in that age group which is gastroenteritis and I felt that it was a very bad case of it. I didn’t recognise sepsis, I didn’t think sepsis then, I wish I did.’

She told the program: ‘I am sorry for not recognising sepsis and I am sorry for my role in what happened to Jack and I will say that again today.’

She added: ‘It was devastating, I have never had any experience like that, have never lost a patient.’

However, she said that her mistakes did not make her a criminal.

She said about her criminal court case: ‘I remember sitting there listening to their account of my actions and I felt like a criminal. I’m not a criminal. I made some wrong clinical judgments that I wish that I hadn’t.’

Dr Bawa-Garba added that she does not believe doctors to be ‘above the law’.

‘I believe that if a doctor was reckless or a doctor for example came to work drunk, you should be investigated, but that should be different from coming to work under difficult circumstances and making a clinical error,’ she said.

Also speaking on the program, Dr Bawa-Garba’s former supervisor and a consultant neonatologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary Dr Jonathan Cusack said Dr Bawa-Garba was working ‘in a perfect storm’ on the evening in question.

Systemic pressures included an IT system failure that meant blood test results were delayed and its alert system unavailable. Dr Bawa-Garba was also not supposed to be the most senior doctor on shift – the consultant was unavailable due to a double-booking, and two out of three nurses were agency staff.

Regarding the IT failure, Dr Bawa-Garba said: ‘Anything that is abnormal will be green and flashing so that it catches the observer’s attention.’

Following yesterday’ ruling, Dr Bawa-Garba is being restored to the GMC register and the MPTS will decide if further action needs to be taken.

Dr Bawa-Garba said: ‘The lessons that I’ve learnt will live with me forever. I welcome the verdict because for me that’s an opportunity to do something that I’ve dedicated my life to doing which is medicine. But I wanted to pay tribute and remember Jack Adcock, a wonderful little boy that started this story.

‘My hope is that lessons learnt from this case will translate into better working conditions for junior doctors, better recognition of sepsis, factors in place that will improve patient safety.’

The GMC has said it accepts the verdict, which was welcomed by relieved members of the medical community.