Intended for healthcare professionals


Williams review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 27 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2779


The Williams Review—a significant step forward for all


The Williams review—the chance to make our health system the safest and best must not be missed

  1. Neil Mortensen, professor of colorectal surgery
  1. University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. neil.mortensen{at}

Recommendations are achievable and should be implemented in full

Most health professionals in the United Kingdom are familiar with the inexorable rise in civil medicolegal claims,1 and many have been either a defendant or an expert witness. Navigating the interface between healthcare and the law is part of modern medical practice. Patients, carers, and families must have confidence that when things go wrong the circumstances will be openly investigated, the findings honestly shared, and any lessons learnt put swiftly into practice. When this doesn’t happen, patients can rightly seek redress in the civil law.

After the Sellu and Bawa Garba proceedings for gross negligence manslaughter, however, there was an understandable wave of disquiet among health professionals.2 The thought that any clinician could be liable to a criminal conviction in the course of their day to day work was chilling. And although doctors now work in complex multidisciplinary teams, within even more complex healthcare systems, it is not these teams or systems being held to account but a single individual.

Both the government and the GMC recognise the potentially explosive consequences for …

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