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High Court ruling on GMC v Bawa-Garba

The RCOG is aware of the possible implications for our specialty that have arisen as a result of the recent ruling in GMC v Bawa-Garba. We support the work currently under way by a number of national bodies to review the law regarding gross negligence manslaughter and will be monitoring progress closely, contributing on behalf of our profession where appropriate.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) issued a statement on 26 January which the RCOG has publicly supported. Their statement highlights some concerning issues arising from the court ruling including clinical supervision, the importance of reflective practice and safe staffing.

On 6 February, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt MP, made a parliamentary announcement to launch an urgent review of medical malpractice cases. The review will be led by Professor Sir Norman Williams, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and will report by the end of April 2018.

“I can announce that I have asked Professor Sir Norman Williams, former president of the Royal College of Surgeons and my senior clinical adviser, to conduct a rapid review into the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare.

“Working with senior lawyers, Sir Norman will review how we ensure the vital role of reflective learning, openness and transparency is protected so that mistakes are learned from and not covered up, how we ensure that there is clarity about where the line is drawn between gross negligence manslaughter and ordinary human error in medical practice so that doctors and other health professionals know where they stand in respect of criminal liability or professional misconduct, and any lessons that need to be learned by the General Medical Council and other professional regulators. I will engage the devolved Administrations, the Justice Secretary and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care in this vital review, which will report to me before the end of April 2018.”

The review will look at:

  • Any lessons that need to be learned by the General Medical Council and other professional regulators
  • How learning, openness and transparency can be protected so that mistakes are learned from and not covered up
  • Providing clarity to doctors about where they stand with respect to criminal liability and professional misconduct

We welcome this review which we hope will provide greater clarity on the role of reflective learning and the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare. Once the review is complete and the impact of this case on professionals is clear we will provide our members with specific advice arising from this exceptional case.

Supporting Our Doctors

We remain committed, whatever the outcome of this specific case, to better support and equip the profession to work within challenging environments; to safeguard the welfare of our doctors; to ensure satisfying job plans and career prospects; and, ultimately, to retain more highly skilled doctors within the specialty. Find out more about this work.

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