Bawa-Garba’s suspension is extended by six months owing to personal circumstancesBMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k5414 (Published 21 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5414
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has suspended Hadiza Bawa-Garba for a further six months after she told the General Medical Council that personal circumstances meant she needed more time before facing a public review hearing.
The case of the trainee paediatrician sparked an outcry among doctors over the way the GMC exercised its powers, culminating in a decision by the government to strip it of its power of appeal.
Bawa-Garba was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in November 2015 over the death of 6 year old Jack Adcock and suspended from the UK medical register for 12 months in June 2017.1 The GMC appealed the suspension decision to the High Court, which decided to strike her off in January 2018.
But doctors raised more than £350 000 to take her case to the Court of Appeal, which in August 2018 reinstated her suspension after taking account of multiple systemic failures found by an investigation into the death.2
The tribunal panel that decided to suspend her ordered a review hearing before the end of the suspension period. For this, she would be expected to provide evidence of insight and up to date medical knowledge, along with current references and testimonials.
The further suspension on 19 December followed a review “on the papers”—without a hearing—by a legally qualified tribunal chair, Stephen Killen, a process that can be used when both the GMC and the doctor agree on the proposed outcome. Both parties provided written evidence and submissions in advance.
Killen said in his determination, “I have noted that Dr Bawa-Garba has indicated, via her legal representatives, that she feels unable to attend a public hearing at present due to personal circumstances.”
A spokesman for the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said, “A paper review of the doctor’s case took place after both the doctor and the GMC agreed that the doctor’s suspension should be extended to allow her time to prepare for a full review hearing.”
A rapid review of gross negligence manslaughter prosecutions against healthcare professionals, set up by the government in the wake of Bawa-Garba’s case, recommended that the GMC lose its right to appeal against tribunal decisions.3 The government accepted the recommendation, but legislation is expected to take about 18 months.
In the meantime the review, chaired by Norman Williams, former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, recommended that the GMC reconsider its processes for deciding when to launch an appeal.
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee suggested that the GMC delegate its right of appeal to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which has a separate right to appeal that it uses much more sparingly.
In a letter dated 20 December to the committee’s chair, Sarah Wollaston, the GMC said that it had taken advice from the leading clinical negligence lawyer Robert Francis QC that it would be unlawful to impose a moratorium on its appeal powers or to delegate them to the PSA.
However, it will be updating its guidance to take account of recent appeal court decisions on the thresholds it should apply and on considering context and systemic issues. Decisions on appeals will in future be taken by a three person executive panel, and the decisions will be published.
Correction: On 27 December we corrected the headline and first paragraph to make it clear that it was the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, not the GMC itself, that extended Hadiza Bawa-Garba’s suspension for a further six months.