Paediatrician Who Won Victory Over GMC Gains Consultant Status

Dr Sheena Meredith

April 02, 2022

Her educational supervisor Dr Jonathan Cusack posted on the CrowdJustice platform: "I am pleased to be able to share some news with Dr Bawa Garba’s supporters. Last week, Hadiza was awarded a Certificate of Completion of Training and joined the GMC Specialist Register as a fully trained consultant paediatrician.

"This has been a long road and her ongoing training would not have been possible without the help of CrowdJustice and her supporters: There were times when we didn’t think this would ever be possible: thank you so much for your support."

History of the Case

The long road began in February 2011 when 6-year old Jack Adcock presented with vomiting and diarrhoea to Leicester Royal Infirmary, where Dr Bawa-Garba was a specialist registrar "on the cusp" of becoming a consultant. She had recently returned from maternity leave, had no direct consultant supervision at the time, and it was admitted that her department was understaffed.

Her working diagnosis was that Jack - who had Down's syndrome and a heart condition - had gastroenteritis and, by her own admission, she failed to appreciate how sick he was. His condition deteriorated but an IT systems failure led to a delay in accessing his test results and Dr Bawa-Garba did not consider that he might have sepsis, from which he died later that day.

Dr Bawa-Garba and two nurses were charged with gross negligence manslaughter in December 2014, and one of the nurses was convicted and later struck off. Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in November 2015 and received a 2-year suspended prison sentence.

Removal from the Medical Register

The GMC then sought to remove her from the medical register. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) rejected this, accepting Dr Bawa-Garba’s plea that the unit was under severe pressure and she had failed to receive senior support. Erasure was "disproportionate", the MTPS said in June 2017, recommending instead that she should be barred from practice for 12 months but could stay on the register and return to practice following disciplinary action. In 2017, the GMC lodged an appeal, and an initial court ruling agreed with Dr Bawa Garba’s removal from the register. She was struck off in January 2018.

In the words of The BMJ, the case left the UK medical profession rattled. There was particular concern that the manslaughter conviction had been based partly on evidence from her own self-appraisal, including - controversially - reflective notes containing details of the incident that she filled in 7 days afterwards. Thousands of doctors rallied in her support, backing a campaign, #IamHadiza, and saying that she was being unfairly made a scapegoat and taking the blame for systemic failures within the NHS.

Crowdfunding in support of Dr Bawa-Garba raised over £360,000 from more than 11,000 pledges to fund the independent legal opinion. Dr Cusack, a consultant neonatologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary and her former supervisor, supported her throughout. She had been, he said, working "in a perfect storm" on the night in question.

Re-Instatement, and Criticism of the GMC

In August 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that she should be  reinstated to the medical register The case led to a Government inquiry into the use of manslaughter charges against doctors and a campaign supported by 13 leading healthcare organisations against the GMC’s right to appeal MPTS decisions.

The Government accepted in full the recommendations of the review, chaired by Professor Sir Norman Williams, including that the GMC should have its right to appeal fitness-to-practise decisions removed. This, the campaign said, "would help to address the mistrust of the GMC amongst doctors and contribute to cultivating a culture of openness that is central to delivering improved patient safety".

A subsequent independent report agreed with the review’s conclusions and said that Dr Bawa-Garba’s case had led to a "fundamental loss of confidence in the GMC". It called on the GMC to make fundamental reforms to end what her supporters had called "a toxic culture of fear and individual blame in the health service" in place of the need "to learn from events and prevent future harm".

Return to Practice

Dr Bawa Garba had all sanctions against her removed last year and was allowed to return to unrestricted practice, a decision fiercely opposed by Jack's parents.

The MPTS said that there were no longer any outstanding concerns over her clinical practice, and it was not in the public interest to maintain conditions.

Supporter Dr Mahim Qureshi tweeted this week: "The biggest most heartfelt congratulations to Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba on achieving #CCT in paediatrics. I hope no healthcare provider is forced to unjustly suffer the way you did, and I would trust you with any member of my family on any day."

However fellow supporter and NHS whistleblowing campaigner Dr Chris Day said that Dr Bawa Garba’s lawyers are still active, as the manslaughter conviction remains in place. In response to the news of her attaining consultant status, he tweeted: "This case shows how rotten and dysfunctional certain healthcare and regulatory structures are.

"It took a crowdfund of 11,000 and international outrage to turn this case around. The big question here is what would have happened without the £300k and the international outrage?"

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