Fears that GMC decision could leave doctors reluctant to admit mistakes

Doctors’ leaders are concerned that members of the medical profession may be reluctant to admit mistakes following the outcome of a controversial case

More than 7,500 practitioners have put their names to a letter which raised grave concerns about a decision to strike Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba off the medical register.

The paediatrician was previously convicted of gross negligence manslaughter following the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock, from Leicestershire.

Dr Bawa-Garba had failed to spot that the youngster was suffering from septic shock and then “inexplicably” mixed Jack up with another child under a “do not resuscitate order”. This meant that she ordered colleagues to cease attempts to revive the boy after he went into cardiac arrest. The death in 2011 prompted the decision to strike off the doctor.

However, doctors fear that the move might mean that individuals are less likely to own up to errors, which could in fact put patients at greater risk.

“Patient safety is paramount and a culture of openness is critical,” said the letter.

“Doctors frequently take on the work of two or more in order to keep our hospitals open. We have seen doctors punished for whistleblowing about unsafe staffing levels.

“We now see them being held criminally responsible for mistakes made whilst working under these pressures, which, with chronic staff shortages, prolonged underfunding and low morale now occur with worrying frequency.”

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the General Medical Council (GMC), defended the handling of the most recent case.

“I recognise a lot of the concern that’s being expressed out there but it’s really important that we differentiate between this case, where a doctor was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, and everyday mistakes.

“This is different from the mistakes that doctors may make in their everyday work. The Judge ruled that even taking account of the system’s failings, the standard of care provided by the doctor was truly exceptionally bad.”

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