Court of appeal to rule on struck-off doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba

The court of appeal is due to rule on whether a doctor who made errors that contributed to the death of a boy can remain in the profession.

The court’s decision on Monday will have implications for the medical profession, say doctors who have campaigned for trainee paediatrician Hadiza Bawa-Garba to be allowed to continue to work. They say she was working long hours under extreme pressure, covering too many wards without supervision and has been penalised for acknowledging that she made a misjudgment.

The case has caused a storm within the profession. Bawa-Garba was found guilty in 2015 of gross negligence manslaughter over the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock in 2011 and received a 24-month suspended sentence. The medical practitioners tribunal decided she should be allowed to continue her training and practise again as a doctor after a one-year suspension.

However, the doctors’ regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC), appealed against the decision, demanding she should be struck off the medical register. The high court ruled in the GMC’s favour in January. Judgment is now being awaited in a crowdfunded appeal against that verdict.

“Doctors await the judgment of Bawa-Garba vs GMC with trepidation,” said a statement from the Doctors’ Association, an independent group formed after the GMC won its case in the high court in January.

“Our thoughts are very much with the Adcock family, as they continue to grieve for Jack who tragically lost his life to sepsis aged six, who are once again thrown into the public spotlight. Our thoughts are also with Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who under immense pressure that day, was sadly unable to save Jack’s life.

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“The case has become a lightning rod for a profession at breaking point. Many of us are working on critically understaffed rotas and in overstretched departments, with an increasingly unmanageable workload. On the day Jack died, Dr Bawa-Garba was doing the job of four doctors; covering six wards, across four floors, responding to numerous paediatric emergencies, whilst supervising two junior doctors new to paediatrics, without a functioning IT system, when just returning from 14 months of maternity leave. And all in the absence of the consultant who should have been on site.”

Jack had Down’s syndrome and a heart condition. He was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary in February 2011 with diarrhoea, vomiting and breathing problems. Bawa-Garba, who was said to have an impeccable record, had just returned from maternity leave.

A failure of the IT system meant test results she ordered were delayed. Her errors, which she admitted, included not asking a consultant to review Jack’s condition and not telling Jack’s mother to stop giving him the drug enalapril for his heart condition. When the boy’s heart stopped that evening, Baba-Garwa confused him with another patient and told the crash team to stop resuscitation, but the mistake was spotted and the team carried on. That error did not contribute to the boy’s death.

Dr Cicely Cunningham, who is leading a campaign called Learn Not Blame for the Doctors’ Association, said if Bawa-Garba lost, it would be “a massive blow for patient safety” because doctors would be afraid to admit errors.

“Doctors are already feeling under pressure and that they are not able to speak up about concerns over staffing levels or when they make a judgment in the care of their patient which with hindsight they think was a poor judgment,” she said.

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The former health secretary Jeremy Hunt had addressed the Baba-Garwa case, saying on Twitter in January that he was “deeply concerned about possibly unintended implications” of the GMC winning its case to have her erased from the medical register in the high court.


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