A tribunal has ruled that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba – the paediatic trainee involved in the death of a six-year-old boy – will be allowed to return to practice, under certain conditions.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) agreed that the public interest has been served already by her cumulative suspension and that she should be allowed to return to training from July 2019 – under supervision – but she does not intend to return to work until February 2020, when her maternity leave finishes.
This comes after the MPTS ruled yesterday that Dr Bawa-Garba fitness to practise remained impaired due to her lack of face-to-face patient contact while she was suspended.
The MPTS said Dr Bawa-Garba could return to practice under a number of conditions that will apply for a period of 24 months, which include the appointment of an education supervisor by her responsible officer among others.
MPTS tribunal chair Ms Claire Sharp said: ‘The evidence before the Tribunal shows that Dr Bawa-Garba has undertaken a significant amount of remediation already and that she has booked further courses to be undertaken prior to her resuming work in February 2020.
‘Given the remediation Dr Bawa-Garba has already undertaken and the full insight she has developed into her shortcomings, the Tribunal was satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba has the potential to respond positively to remediation, retraining, and to her work being supervised. From the evidence before it, the Tribunal was also satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba remains fully committed to keeping her skills and knowledge up to date and that she has made substantial progress in doing so despite not being in clinical practice.’
She added: ‘The Tribunal was therefore satisfied that a period of conditional registration would be an appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case which would adequately address Dr Bawa-Garba’s extended absence from clinical practice whilst at the same time protecting the public and maintaining confidence in the profession. As noted in its earlier determination at the impairment stage of these proceedings, the Tribunal is satisfied that the public interest in this case has been served by the cumulative suspension of Dr Bawa-Garba’s registration for 18 months. The Tribunal therefore considered that any sanction higher than that of a period of conditional registration would be disproportionate and punitive.’
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We would like to acknowledge how difficult this process has been for the Adcock family and our thoughts are with them.’
‘The GMC and Dr Bawa-Garba’s representatives both submitted to the medical practitioners tribunal that her fitness to practise remains impaired due to the length of time she has been out of practice. It is important the doctor’s return to practice is safely managed.’
They added: ‘The tribunal agreed, making a finding of impairment, and they have imposed conditions on Dr Bawa-Garba’s registration for two years in order to allow her to return safely to practice.’
The Doctors’ Association UK chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden said: ‘Today’s verdict, whilst welcome, is no cause of celebration. There are no winners in this desperately sad case. However, restoring Dr Bawa-Garba to the medical register is the right outcome and will go some way in addressing the current climate of fear and blame in the NHS which is so toxic to patient safety. I have no doubt that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba will now be the safest doctor in the hospital, and as a doctor and a mother I would have no hesitation in allowing her to treat my child.’
In December last year, it was announced that the MPTS had extended the suspension of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba by a further six months, in order to ‘protect the public’.
The GMC had succeeded in striking off Dr Bawa-Garba in a high-profile High Court case after appealling against the MPTS’s decision to suspend her for a year.
Dr Bawa-Garba’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.