13:07, August 15 45 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-15 13:07:04
We must support not sue our doctors

I was greatly heartened to find that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has been allowed to continue her medical training (Report, 14 August). I am a retired doctor with considerable paediatric experience and find the whole saga deeply depressing. The courts and the GMC displayed a total lack of understanding of the practice of medicine. Indeed the only person to come out of this sorry saga with any dignity is Dr Bawa-Garba herself.

She was the last line of defence against an extremely difficult diagnosis (most consultant physicians will have missed the diagnosis of sepsis at some time) in a child with Down’s syndrome, which makes children more vulnerable. She had to cope with too much work with other sick children, little or no senior support, agency staff and a failed IT system. Surprise, surprise – things went wrong. To her eternal credit she immediately confessed to some errors of judgment, and for that she was hauled through the courts and the GMC, to their eternal shame.

The practice of medicine is the most difficult and complex undertaking of humanity, and mistakes will be made. Learn from the airline industry and confess, investigate and learn. Don’t jump in and search for a scapegoat (usually as far as possible removed from those really responsible). Lack of resources take their toll in staff shortages, overwork and lack of training.

Medical practice is a lifelong learning curve and the greatest asset is experience. All doctors have made mistakes and errors of judgment, often only apparent in retrospect. Doctors, especially young doctors, need help, advice and support to become better doctors. They do not need threats of the courts if things go wrong. What other profession has to put up with those? Not lawyers, bankers or politicians.

Dr Peter Estcourt

South Chailey, East Sussex

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