Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba restored to unrestricted medical practice

A Leicester doctor whose case became a lightning rod for anger in the medical profession over the fairness of regulation has had all restrictions on her medical practice lifted.

Bawa-Garba case: implications for NHS (Photo: Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) recommended on 2 July that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba's fitness to practise was 'no longer impaired' and that she was now 'safe to practise without restriction'.

The ruling, which has not been challenged by the GMC, comes eight months after the Leicester paediatrician resumed clinical practice in November 2020 - just over two years on from a controversial High Court challenge by the GMC that led to her being struck off.

Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off in January 2018 after the GMC won a High Court challenge against a medical tribunal decision. The MPTS had recommended a one-year suspension after Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of manslaughter following the death of a six-year old child at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba

However, the GMC then challenged the ruling in court and struck her off, although the Leicester doctor was reinstated later that year after the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court ruling.

The GMC challenge to the tribunal's initial sanction sparked widespread concern that efforts to create a culture of openness and transparency in the NHS would be undermined, and came despite evidence that despite significant mistakes by Dr Bawa-Garba, the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock had come in the context of wider system failures that were not in her control.

Then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt said after the GMC won its High Court challenge that he was 'deeply concerned' about the implications for patient safety of the decision to strike off Dr Bawa-Garba.

The 2018 Williams review, commissioned in the wake of concern over the Bawa-Garba case led to recommendations accepted by the government that the GMC should be stripped of its power to appeal tribunal decisions. Despite the recommendation being accepted it has yet to take effect - and the GMC has continued to use its power of appeal.

Responding to the decision to lift restrictions on Dr Bawa-Garba's medical practice, Doctors' Association UK (DAUK) chair and Learn Not Blame Campaign lead Dr Jenny Vaughan said: 'We welcome the news that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba had her licence to practise medicine fully restored today to allow her to work independently. We are also pleased that the GMC opted for a neutral stance and have allowed the MPTS to make this decision.

Transparency

'Healthcare desperately needs an open, transparent, learning culture, where harm is minimised by learning from error and failings. Scandals such as Mid Staffs, 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 Dr 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. Our thoughts are also with his family.'

The DAUK said the case had 'united the medical profession in fear and anger', because it had seen a 'paediatrician in training, with a previously unblemished record, convicted of gross negligence manslaughter for judgments made while doing the jobs of several doctors at once, covering six wards across four floors, responding to numerous paediatric emergencies, without a functioning IT system, and in the absence of a consultant. All when just returning from 14 months of maternity leave'.

The latest tribunal ruling said that it was satisfied 'on the basis of the overwhelming evidence regarding Dr Bawa-Garba’s clinical competence' that restrictions could now be lifted.

It said: 'The tribunal was satisfied that the risk of any repetition was now low. The tribunal determined that Dr Bawa-Garba had done everything that could reasonably be expected of her. Having taken all of the evidence before it into account, the tribunal was satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba had remediated for all concerns raised and was now safe to practise without restriction.'

The government set out plans earlier this year intended to speed up fitness to practise cases and to press ahead with stripping the GMC of its power of appeal.

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