Doctors' groups throw weight behind Bawa-Garba legal appeal

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) will raise concerns about discrimination against BME doctors after winning the right to take part in a legal appeal on behalf of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba next week.

BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta
BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta

BAPIO's successful bid to be recognised as an interested party in the appeal comes just two months after the BMA also won the right to join the appeal.

A written submission from BAPIO will highlight the impact of discrimination on BME doctors within the NHS, arguing that this contributed to the treatment of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba following the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock in 2011.

The latest appeal is expected to take place next week. Top discrimination and equality lawyer Karon Monaghan QC will submit on behalf of BAPIO.

Discrimination

Speaking to GPonline, BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta said: 'We are interested from the point of discrimination and equality. If Dr Bawa-Garba was white she wouldn’t have landed in such deep trouble.

‘Our submission will concentrate on worse outcomes for BME doctors referred to the GMC. Discrimination is an NHS-wide problem [and] institutional racism affects quality of care for patients.’

The BMA, which won the right in May to join the appeal, will make submissions to highlight 'important legal issues in this tragic and important case, following the far-reaching impact it has had on doctors'.

A spokesman said: 'The BMA’s intervention will focus on, among other matters, the extent to which fitness to practice tribunals are entitled to consider evidence which has already been considered by a jury, including evidence of systemic pressures and remediation; and, how the question of maintaining public confidence in the medical profession should be considered and decided in fitness-to-practise cases which involve a criminal conviction.'

Medical tribunal

Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off in January this year after a 12-month suspension imposed by a medical tribunal was overturned by a challenge from the GMC in the High Court.

In the same month, BAPIO wrote an open letter to the GMC accusing the regulator of racial discrimination. The letter read: ‘Given the published data that BME doctors are three to five times more likely to get GMC public warnings and restrictions compared to white doctors, we find it hard not to come to the conclusion that Dr Bawa-Garba’s pursuit by the GMC reflects the inherent bias that exists within the GMC which treats BME doctors differently and harshly.’

In response, the GMC described the accusations as ‘troubling and without merit’. Their statement read: ‘It is true that certain groups, including BME doctors, are disproportionately represented in the complaints that are made to us, and the figures show that between 2012 and 2016, 10.2% of all BME and 8.8% of all white doctors had a complaint made to the GMC about them.

'We conduct analyses to improve our understanding of what drives those trends, and we publish our data every year in our state of medical education and practice report. Looking across all of our analyses and research we see no evidence of bias in GMC decision-making related to ethnicity.’

A GMC report on the treatment of BME doctors is expected early next year.

Crowdfunding

Fallout from the Bawa-Garba case has been widespread within the healthcare sector, causing hundreds of GPs to boycott reflective entries for appraisal.

Dr Mehta added: ‘What happened to Bawa-Garba has been extremely traumatic for everybody, not only for BME doctors but for all the medical fraternity. We’ve been traumatised.

‘We want to see that the GMC as a regulatory body is fair and [acting] in the best interests of patients.

'If doctors are unhappy, demoralised or scared about what might happen if things go wrong then they can't do justice to their patients. So the bottom line is about offering the best quality of patient care, and in order to do this doctors have to be happy and content without worrying about the regulating body behind their backs at all times.'

A crowdfunding page set up in January to help raise money for an appeal in support of Dr Bawa-Garba raised more than £350,000.

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