The Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) has extended the suspension of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba by a further six months, commenting that the measure was ‘appropriate’ to ‘protect the public’.
This followed the high-profile High Court case which saw the GMC succeed in an appeal against an MPTS suspension order, strengthening the doctor’s sanction to being struck off.
In an announcement today, the MPTS said the extension was agreed by Dr Bawa-Garba and the GMC, and a review to decide whether she is fit to return to work will take place before the six months are up.
The MPTS had initially suspended Dr Bawa-Garba from practising in light of her 2015 manslaughter conviction relating to the death of six-year-old patient Jack Adcock.
In deciding not to strike off the doctor, MPTS noted there were systemic failures contributing to the death, however the GMC later argued a manslaughter conviction should be automatic grounds for being struck off.
Commenting on the decision to extend Dr Bawa-Garba’s suspension, an MPTS spokesperson said: ‘Yesterday, 19 December, a paper review of the doctor’s case took place, after both the doctor and the GMC agreed that the doctor’s suspension should be extended to allow her time to prepare for a full review hearing.
‘An MPTS legally qualified chair reviewed the case and decided that the doctor’s suspension will be extended for six months and that a review will be held before the suspension expires.’
According MPTS legally qualified chair Mr Stephen Killen, the extended suspension will ‘protect the public’ and give Dr Bawa-Garba time to ‘address the remaining concerns’ regarding her fitness to practise, including some ‘personal issues’.
He said: ‘Having again considered all of the evidence presented to me, together with the submissions of the parties, I am satisfied that, in the circumstances as they stand today, a further period of suspension is appropriate and proportionate and would be sufficient to protect the public and the public interest.’
He added: ‘In reaching this decision, I have taken into account the current position, whereby little appears to have changed from the position existing in June 2017 and where no evidence is currently available to address the remaining concerns of the 2017 Tribunal as to Dr Bawa-Garba’s fitness to practise.
‘This further period should permit Dr Bawa-Gawa some further time to address the personal issues, which her representatives referred to and to address those matters which the 2017 Tribunal outlined in its determination.’
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘Dr Bawa-Garba contacted us ahead of her scheduled review hearing and advised that she would not be in a position to provide the evidence she would wish. She therefore requested that her review hearing take place later next year. Given her personal circumstances, we were supportive of this request.
‘To enable Dr Bawa-Garba to prepare the evidence she wishes to present to the tribunal we agreed with her representatives to a paper review of the case by a legally qualified chair of the MPTS in order to extend the time available to her. As a result a full hearing will take place later in 2019.’
Dr Bawa-Gaba’s appeal case
Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off the medical register after the High Court ruled in favour of the GMC in the case against its own fitness-to-practise tribunal in January this year.
James Laddie, the QC representing Dr Bawa-Garba, claimed at her appeal hearing in July that there were ‘systemic failings which contributed to the environment in which Dr Bawa-Garba came to make the mistakes which led us to this court’.
Dr Bawa-Garba had originally diagnosed Jack Adcock with gastroenteritis and failed to spot from blood tests that Jack had sepsis, or review chest X-rays that indicated he had a chest infection.
Following the initial High Court ruling, which caused an uproar from the medical profession, the Government has announced its intention to strip the GMC of the power to appeal MPTS decisions. However the GMC has said it will continue until legislation changes.