Intended for healthcare professionals


Bawa-Garba is free to practise again without restrictions after tribunal ruling

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 05 July 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1690
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

Hadiza Bawa-Garba has been allowed to practise again without restrictions, 10 years after a 6 year old boy in her care died of septic shock following a mistaken diagnosis of gastroenteritis.

A well regarded trainee paediatrician at the time Jack Adcock died in 2011, Bawa-Garba was later found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.1 Many doctors saw her as a scapegoat for an overstretched and underfunded NHS.

An investigation at Leicester Royal Infirmary found numerous system failures on the 12 hour shift when she was working under extreme pressure, covering several wards without adequate supervision and with IT problems. She had just returned from 14 months’ maternity leave.

After the manslaughter conviction in 2015 Bawa-Garba was given a two year suspended jail sentence. A medical practitioners tribunal, which took account of the context in which she worked, suspended her from the medical register for a year. But the General Medical Council appealed, and the High Court ordered her to be struck off the register.

Doctors who were outraged by the GMC’s decision crowdfunded around £350 000 to cover the cost of taking her case to the Court of Appeal. In 2018 three judges ruled that the High Court was wrong and reinstated her suspension.

The case was sent back to the tribunal, which decided that she should have to practise under supervision for two years from July 2019, given her four years out of clinical practice, with a review at the end to check whether her skills were up to date.2

The review tribunal decided on 2 July that she can now work without supervision. Sharmistha Michaels, chairing the tribunal, said it had received “overwhelming evidence” of Bawa-Garba’s clinical competence.

Jenny Vaughan, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK and lead for the Learn Not Blame campaign, said that the campaigners welcomed the news. “We are also pleased that the GMC opted for a neutral stance.

“Healthcare desperately needs an open, transparent, learning culture, where harm is minimised by learning from error and failings. Scandals such as Mid-Staffordshire, Gosport, and Morecambe Bay repeatedly demonstrate how a culture of defensiveness and denial can escalate into widespread cover-up, leaving families fighting for answers.

“The climate of fear among the medical profession created by the GMC’s actions over Bawa-Garba only makes it more likely that this will happen again. Jack Adcock should have received better care, and his tragic death was the result of systems failure.”

As a result of Bawa-Garba’s case, an inquiry commissioned by the government concluded that the GMC should lose its right to appeal against tribunal decisions. But the regulator continues to launch appeals pending legislation to remove the right. A recent Freedom of Information Act request showed that it has challenged 14 tribunal decisions in the past three years.

Bawa-Garba said she had only ever wanted to do her very best for her patients and was “extremely thankful” to be able to continue her work “free from the GMC process.” She added, “This case has had a lasting and profound effect on me and I still think about it every day, though I know none of what I have experienced compares to what the Adcock family have been through.”


View Abstract