12:16, August 13 321 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-13 12:16:06
Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba wins appeal against being struck off

A doctor convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence over the death of a six-year-old boy in her care has won her bid to be reinstated to the medical register.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, a junior doctor specialising in paediatrics, was held responsible for the death of Jack Adcock, who suffered heart failure after going into septic shock while in her care at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.

In a court of appeal ruling, three senior judges quashed the high court decision and restored the lesser sanction of a one-year suspension.

Announcing the ruling, the master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, said: “The members of the court express their deep sympathy with Jack’s parents, who attended the hearing in person, as well as respect for the dignified and resolute way in which they have coped with a terrible loss in traumatic circumstances.”

Bawa-Garba welcomed the appeal court’s decision. “I’m very pleased with the outcome, but I want to pay tribute and remember Jack Adcock, a wonderful little boy that started the story,” she told BBC’s Panorama.

“I want to let the parents know that I’m sorry for my role in what has happened to Jack.

“I also want to acknowledge and give gratitude to people around the world, from the public to the medical community, who have supported me. I’m very overwhelmed by the generosity and I’m really grateful for that.”

Jack, from Glen Parva in Leicestershire, had Down’s syndrome and a known heart condition.

The case has caused a storm within the profession. Bawa-Garba was found guilty in 2015 of gross negligence manslaughter and received a 24-month suspended sentence. The medical practitioners tribunal initially decided she should be allowed to continue her training and practise again as a doctor after a one-year suspension.

But the doctors’ regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC), appealed against the decision, saying she should be struck off the medical register. The high court ruled in the GMC’s favour in January.

Etherton said: “The case is unusual. No concerns have ever been raised about the clinical competence of Dr Bawa-Garba, other than in relation to Jack’s death, even though she continued to be employed at the hospital until her conviction. The evidence before the tribunal was that she was in the top third of her specialist trainee cohort.

“The tribunal was satisfied that her deficient actions in relation to Jack were neither deliberate nor reckless, that she had remedied the deficiencies in her clinical skills and did not present a continuing risk to patients, and that the risk of her clinical practice suddenly and without explanation falling below the standards expected on any given day was no higher than for any other reasonably competent doctor.

“The tribunal was an expert body entitled to reach all those conclusions, including the important factor weighing in favour of Dr Bawa-Garba that she is a competent and useful doctor, who presents no material continuing danger to the public, and can provide considerable useful future service to society.”

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “This is a small step in the right direction for patients and doctors. We need to make sure that patients and families get the answers they need through open and transparent engagement with NHS organisations.

“The GMC needs to rethink its priorities in enabling this to happen rather than aggressively pursuing doctors in the courts.”

Dr Rob Hendry, the medical director at the Medical Protection Society (MPS), said after the ruling: “We are very pleased the appeal submitted by Dr Bawa-Garba’s legal team has been successful. The MPS supported Dr Bawa-Garba for seven years. We know how much this will mean to her, and to the profession.

“The strength of feeling on this case among our members and the wider healthcare community has been unprecedented. It is vital that lessons are now learned to avoid other doctors having to go through the same ordeal.”

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) president, Prof Dame Jane Dacre, said the judgment was “a welcome step towards the development of a just culture in healthcare, as opposed to a blame culture”.

“But our thoughts today are first and foremost with the family of six-year-old Jack Adcock who died as a result of the errors that were made. While we understand the judgment is not what they hoped for, the RCP believes it will help us develop a culture in which families like them will be more likely to receive the support, clear explanations and apologies they need and deserve.”

She added: “We hope today’s judgment will provide some reassurance to doctors, particularly our trainees, that they will be protected if they make a mistake. We remain concerned at the impact this case has had on professional reflection, which is crucial to helping us improve our performance.”