HCSA statement on Bawa-Garba case

The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association has today issued a statement on the case of former doctor in training Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was struck off yesterday following a successful High Court Appeal by the General Medical Council.

Yesterday's judgement overturned a 12-month suspension handed down last June by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

"The HCSA recognises the tragedy in this case, in which a six-year-old lost his life, but we are also alarmed and saddened by yesterday's decision.

"It sends the worst possible message to Junior Doctors who find themselves working in demanding and under-resourced settings – that despite such clear mitigating factors they could in effect be held entirely responsible for any shortcomings and medical errors and will be shown no quarter.

"It will leave many Junior Doctors uneasy and uncertain about the potential medico-legal risks they face in discharging their duty to the health service, eroding confidence and hampering their development.

"While recognising the duty of the General Medical Council and the role of the MPTS in dealing with the most tragic of medical errors and ensuring safety to patients, it has also long been recognised that there is no place for actions that engender a counterproductive 'blame' approach in the development of Junior Doctors.

"The case of Bawa-Garba appears to be doing precisely that.

"Such a culture crushes the vocational drive of our trainee doctors and injects fear and apprehension where there should be support and professional understanding.

"HCSA is deeply disturbed that the GMC fought through the courts to apply a ruling harsher than that intended by the MPTS. This bears the hallmarks of an emerging adversarial and punitive approach rather than one based on seeking informed balance and justice.

"This is a development that HCSA and the profession as a whole cannot accept.

"We believe that an urgent intervention is necessary to ensure balance and justice in the regulatory adjudication processes, and also to restore confidence in the system of reflective learning and appraisal of doctors which has been eroded by the access and use of self-produced memoires and learning notes in the prosecution of this case.

"We expect the Secretary of State and Health Education England to address these concerns without delay and to initiate an urgent review of the GMC approach to such cases, not least given the potential undermining impact they could have on Junior Doctors.

"To be effective, such a process needs to result in restorative measures that will reassure our Junior Doctors, and others who may find themselves in a similar situation in future, that they will encounter just treatment that sensitively recognises the extremely difficult circumstances in which hospital doctors so often work."