The RCP has submitted written evidence to the GMC working group that is looking into how gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide (in Scotland) are applied to medical practice.
As a profession and society we believe we must focus on developing a just culture as opposed to a blame culture. The latter is a barrier to improving quality and safety in healthcare, whereas the former actively fosters improvement by encouraging openness and learning.
Several RCP members with particular expertise and experience in this area are making comprehensive responses to the review. The RCP responded to the recent rapid policy review into gross negligence manslaughter by Professor Sir Norman Williams. And the RCP looks forward to speaking directly to the review team.
We therefore make five main points in this submission:
- doctors should not be prosecuted for deaths that result from errors: involuntary mistakes, slips and lapses
- the focus should be on learning from errors to improve patient safety, rather than apportioning blame
- the context in which a patient died is of paramount importance, particularly the system and environment in which a healthcare professional was working
- a human factors assessment approach should be taken in investigations
- there needs to be greater standardisation in terms of expert witness training and selection, investigation, and decision to prosecute.
In addition, the RCP welcomes the fact the GMC is investigating the high level of complaints against black and minority ethnic doctors compared with white doctors. The fact that none of the healthcare professionals convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in the past 10 years have been white, when around 60 per cent of the NHS medical staff is white, suggests a significant level of bias.