This site is intended for health professionals only

Half of doctors fear facing blame for errors due to system failings, says top GP

More than half of doctors fear they will be blamed for making a medical error made because of systemic pressures in the NHS, a top GP has said.

Opening the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added that a BMA survey of 8,000 doctors also found that only a quarter are willing to record written reflections.

This comes after the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba drew controversy after it was believed that experts giving evidence at her gross negligence manslaughter trial – heard by a Crown Court in 2015 – had been informed by her personal reflections.

The GMC struck off Dr Bawa-Garba from the medical register, after she was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘95% of doctors told us they were fearful of making a medical error and more than half fear they’ll be blamed for errors due to pressures or system failings in their workplace.

‘Only a quarter are happy to record reflections, the rest fearing they could be used against them.’

Dr Nagpaul added that fear of being criminalised for a medical is ‘the most harrowing cloud hanging over any doctor’, adding that the ‘defensive culture is bad for doctors, bad for patients and bad for safety’.

Therefore, Dr Nagpaul told delegates that he was ‘pleased that the BMA will be providing evidence in the appeal of Dr Bawa-Garba, to raise these very issues in the interests of doctors and patients themselves.’

The BMA has previously said their advice to Court of Appeal would focus on ‘the extent to which fitness to practice tribunals are entitled to consider evidence which has already been considered by a jury, including evidence of systemic pressures and remediation’.