RCP responds to Professor Sir Norman Williams review

The RCP welcomes the publication of Professor Norman Williams' rapid policy review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare, and its recommendations focused on creating a stronger culture of learning within the NHS.

RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre commented:

We are pleased that our evidence has helped to shape the recommendations and welcome the proposed direction of travel.

Our position has always been that an open culture of learning is key to improving patient safety. The whole system benefits from doctors who are confident that they will be supported when they air their concerns. It is therefore vital that this isn’t the end of the discussion. Doctors must be active partners in implementing the changes to enhance patient safety.

    Our position has always been that an open culture of learning is key to improving patient safety. The whole system benefits from doctors who are confident that they will be supported when they air their concerns.

    Professor Jane Dacre, president of the RCP

    On the recommendations in more detail:

    • The RCP welcomes the recommendation that reflective notes will be protected from the regulator. We also encourage the government to consider whether the law needs to change to legally protect reflective notes.
    • Confirmation that medical examiners will be introduced to review hospital deaths is welcome. These reviews will need to focus on learning and work in partnership with the profession. The development of a common criterion for cases of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare is a vital step that should be progressed quickly with the support of the royal colleges.
    • The review recognises the over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) doctors in complaints, and we now look forward to the government taking action in partnership with BAME professionals to address any bias in the system.
    • The review makes a recommendation to remove the power of the GMC to appeal the outcomes of medical tribunals. This is a significant change that responds to the concerns of doctors following the Dr Bawa-Garba case. The GMC and the government now need to work together to consider this recommendation, and importantly how they are going to rebuild the profession’s confidence in the regulator.

    There is an urgent need to ensure that the NHS gets the resources it deserves to place services on a more sustainable footing and reduce risk to patients.

    Professor Jane Dacre, president of the RCP

    Professor Dacre concluded:

    There is an urgent need to ensure that the NHS gets the resources it deserves to place services on a more sustainable footing and reduce risk to patients.

    The upcoming workforce strategy and financial settlement will be crucial to meeting the ambition of a culture of learning and higher standards of patient care. We predict the report of our own Safe Medical Staffing working party in July will reinforce this case.

    Gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare review

    The review makes recommendations to support a more just and learning culture in the healthcare system. It covers:

    • the process for investigating gross negligence manslaughter
    • reflective practice of healthcare professionals
    • the regulation of healthcare professionals.

    The review was set up to look at the wider patient safety impact of concerns among healthcare professionals that simple errors could result in prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter, even if they happen in the context of broader organisation and system failings.