The GMC learnt ‘a great deal’ about supporting doctors’ wellbeing from the high-profile 2018 legal case concerning Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, its chief executive told MPs today.
Responding to a question from health select committee chair Jeremy Hunt, GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said that his ‘deepest learning’ was ‘about the role that we as a professional regulator need to play in driving improvements in workplace culture and supporting wellbeing’.
His comments come after the GMC faced widespread criticism from the medical community at the time for not taking into account the systemic pressures at the hospital where Dr Bawa-Garba was practising when six-year old Jack Adcock died in 2015.
Since the Court of Appeal finally decided to reinstate Dr Bawa-Garba to practise in 2018, the GMC has updated its fitness-to-practise processes, including training FTP investigators to recognise ‘human factors’.
Speaking today, Mr Massey said: ‘We learnt a great deal – the issues of human practice techniques came directly out of that case.’
He highlighted reports since produced by the GMC, including on BAME doctors being more likely to be subject to FTP complaints, as well as on the wellbeing of doctors.
He added: ‘So that case has actually taken us much more directly into thinking about the role we can play in creating more sustainable, supportive and inclusive workplaces for doctors and other healthcare professionals.’
Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in 2015 following the death of six-year-old Jack at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.
The doctor received a 24-month suspended sentence for the conviction and was suspended from practice for one year by the MPTS.
Following legal advice, the GMC then appealed this decision to only suspend Dr Bawa-Garba, which succeeded in January 2018 and led to Dr Bawa-Garba being struck off the register.
The Court of Appeal heard that the GMC wanted the decision to be replaced with erasure because suspension was ‘not sufficient to protect the public’.
There was then widespread criticism about the decision by doctors who said systemic pressures at the hospital Dr Bawa-Garba worked at were not taken into account in the case.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal judges ruled in her favour and restored the former MPTS decision to only suspend Dr Bawa-Garba from the register, rather than strike her off. It pointed out that the legal advice the GMC received was not correct.
In 2019, papers published revealed it had been advised to appeal the case because it was necessary in order to protect public interest and the reputation of the profession.