GMC hits low ebb following the Bawa-Garba case

The GMC’s relationship with doctors has taken a ‘hit’ following the Bawa-Garba case and it has a ‘long way’ to go to regain their confidence, its chief executive has admitted

Charlie Massey was speaking at its ‘Together’ conference in London last week, where the fallout from the case was debated and its corporate strategy, An Ambition for Change, launched.

Mr Massey said the Dr Bawa-Garba case had “raised really genuine anxieties within the medical profession about reflection and about raising concerns and about a culture of learning”.

“I completely recognise that,’ he added. ‘It is really important that all doctors can and should learn from mistakes. I do recognise that there is a long way ahead to get to where doctors feel they are listened to. I recognise also that the GMC has taken a hit over the last few weeks in terms of its relationship with the profession.”

Hadiza Bawa-Garba, a junior doctor, was convicted of manslaughter in 2015 following the death of a six-year-old boy. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service had given Dr Bawa-Garba a 12-month suspension from the medical register, but this was successfully challenged by the GMC in the high court, and the sanction was changed to erasure.

The BMA has already secured a series of pledges from the GMC in response to doctors’ concerns about the wider issues raised by the case and will be working with it to produce the regulator’s official guidance on reflection, due to be published this summer.

Mr Massey said he had decided to ‘pause’ its work on reflection to craft guidance that was ‘more genuinely jointly produced’ with the BMA and others.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya said doctors’ dissatisfaction in light of the GMC’s handling of the Bawa-Garba case was similar to that of the contract dispute.

“They are not feeling as though the system around them, the regulator, their employers, or the Government are there for them when they are struggling,” he told the conference.

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“Sir Robert Francis said junior doctors were the eyes and ears of the hospital. We are very much the canary in the mine. We feel pressures in every aspect of the service,” he said.

But trainees working under pressure had to feel confident that they could report mistakes without fear of being penalised – and that required change, Dr Wijesuriya said.

He said there needed to be a ‘shift in all our systems’ to create a supportive environment which provided the best possible care, and one in which senior doctors had the time to train their junior colleagues.

The meeting took place just days before GPs at the annual local medical committees conference passed a vote of no confidence in the GMC.

GPC sessional GPs subcommittee chair Zoe Norris said: “GPs have lost all confidence in the GMC to be objective and to genuinely balance patient safety against the reality of being a doctor in the modern NHS.”

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