RCP statement following the court of appeal ruling on the case of Dr Bawa-Garba

The court of appeal has unanimously overturned the ruling of the high court that Dr Bawa-Garba be struck off the medical register.

Responding to the judgment, RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said:

The judgment of the court of appeal is a welcome step towards the development of a just culture in healthcare, as opposed to a blame culture. As we said in our evidence to the GMC review of medical manslaughter, focusing on blame serves nobody, least of all patients, families, friends and carers.

But our thoughts today are first and foremost with the family of 6-year-old Jack Adcock who died as a result of the errors that were made. While we understand the judgement is not what they hoped for, the RCP believes it will help us develop a culture in which families like them will be more likely to receive the support, clear explanations and apologies they need and deserve.

While the primary aim of investigations into the deaths of patients is to apportion blame, it is less likely that systemic faults will be uncovered and future lives saved, which must be the priority. On 18 February 2011, Jack Adcock was not the victim of a ‘truly, exceptionally bad doctor’, but of an overstretched system that saw a competent trainee covering the workload of several doctors.

As Dr Bawa-Garba’s counsel said, the decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service to impose a one year suspension was ‘humane and balanced’. It recognised that the actions of a doctor had contributed to the death of a patient, but also that the doctor in question was working under extreme pressure.

We hope today’s judgement will provide some reassurance to doctors, particularly our trainees, that they will be protected if they make a mistake.

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, RCP president

As a result of its decision to take the case to the high court and have Dr Bawa-Garba struck off, the profession's trust and faith in the GMC has been undermined. With this judgement, it is clear it has to immediately begin work to regain our respect. The RCP looks forward to working closely with its review to identify the steps it needs to take.

We hope today’s judgement will provide some reassurance to doctors, particularly our trainees, that they will be protected if they make a mistake. We remain concerned at the impact this case has had on professional reflection, which is crucial to helping us improve our performance. We again urge all doctors to keep on reflecting.

As a profession, we must now work together to avoid further deaths. We will achieve this by making sure the NHS has the financial and human resources it needs. By working with the GMC to make sure its focus is on the development of a just culture. And, above all, by collectively reflecting and learning from this tragic incident.