The GMC is set to review how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice following doctors’ concerns after its successful high court appeal to strike off a doctor convicted of the offence.
The review will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK, and will focus on doctors’ ‘reflections’ and support for doctors in raising concerns.
The move follows a High Court ruling, which found in favour of the GMC’s decision to strike off Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba from its register.
Dr Bawa-Garba received a 24 month suspended sentence for gross negligence manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court in 2015 following the death of a six-year-old patient four years earlier.
She was declared fit to practise by the GMC’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal service, but the GMC took the MPTS to High Court in a bid to appeal the decision, arguing that it did not have the authority to effectively go against the conviction.
GMC chair Professor Terence Stephenson said that the GMC ‘recognise the strength of feeling expressed by many doctors’.
He added: ‘In recent months I have been engaged in workshops and constructive discussions with medical leaders on the issue of medical manslaughter. That is urgent work because, although in this case the court has ruled that the MPTS had no powers to unpick the criminal court conviction, it is clear that there is a critical need to examine the wider issues around how gross negligent manslaughter cases are initiated and investigated, the expertise and consistency applied to those investigations, and the role of reflection in such matters.
‘As part of our commitment to learn and improve matters we will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK to explore how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice, in situations where the risk of death is a constant and in the context of systemic pressure. That work will include a renewed focus on reflection and provision of support for doctors in raising concerns.’
Professor Stephenson said the GMC ‘recognise that any doctor, no matter how experienced, can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure’.