A paediatric trainee who was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, after a six-year-old boy died from sepsis, has won her appeal to be reinstated to the medical register and continue to practise as a doctor.
Hadiza Bawa-Garba was found guilty in 2015 and suspended from the medical register for a year in 2017. But the General Medical Council (GMC) appealed the decision, arguing that it did not protect the public. The High Court ruled that she should be struck off in January 2018.
On 13 August 2018, in a Court of Appeal ruling, three senior judges overturned the High Court decision and restored the lesser sanction of a one-year suspension.
The government commissioned a review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare following the Bawa-Garba case, which had led some doctors to boycott the reflective review element of their appraisal process.
At the time the review was commissioned, the General Pharmaceutical Council said pharmacists would not be expected to record what was discussed in the peer discussion part of the new pharmacy revalidation process.
Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, welcomed the Court of Appeal judgment and said he hoped that Bawa-Garba would now be given space to resume her career.
“Lessons must be learnt from this case, which raises wider issues about the multiple factors that affect patient safety in an NHS under extreme pressure, rather than narrowly focusing only on individuals,” he said.
Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said the Council fully accepted the Court of Appeal’s judgment and that it was sorry for the anguish and uncertainty the proceedings had caused for the patient’s family, Bawa-Garba and the medical profession.
“As the independent regulator responsible for protecting patient safety we are frequently called upon to take difficult decisions, and we do not take that role lightly,” said Massey. “This was a complex and unusual case; while the decisions we took were in good faith, we know that investigations and hearings are difficult for everyone involved.
He said the GMC had commissioned an independent review to look at how criminal law in medicine is applied in situations where the risk of death is a constant.