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GPs call for better support systems to report and reflect on errors after Bawa-Garba case

The Dr. Hadiza Bawa-Garba case has caused “considerable anxiety” for GPs and trainee GPs, according to the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).

Following an extensive discussion of the case at the UK Council on Friday 23 February 2018, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, has made a statement, in which she said that the case had “shaken the entire medical community in the UK.”

“The case has also caused considerable anxiety for GPs, particularly GP trainees, who are worried about the repercussions of the ruling and how it might affect the way they practise in future,” she commented.

In order for doctors to continuously improve, she explained that they must able to reflect on the care that they deliver and the systems they work within openly and honestly.

“The implications for general practice, specifically, are significant given that we work independently, largely on our own, seeing the greatest number of patients on a daily basis in the health service,” Stokes-Lampard continued.

“We do this without effective mechanisms to control our increasing workload, and a vital part of our role is to deal with uncertainty and manage risk on behalf of the NHS.”

The chair stressed that support systems need to be in place for GPs and their teams to recognise and report errors, and reflect on them so that they can be learnt from and steps can be taken to reduce the risk of them happening again.

“RCGP Council is very concerned that instead of promoting an open culture focused on learning from errors by improving systems, the unintended consequence of this tragic case could be regression to a blame culture,” the RCGP boss warned.

The college has shared guidance with its trainees on how to reflect on errors safely, and is calling for the resources to ensure that all doctors in training have adequate, and for high-quality clinical supervision, and safe staffing levels and functioning systems to be in place across the NHS.

Stokes-Lampard added: “It is important that all doctors have confidence in the organisation that regulates them, and to this end we will be working constructively with the GMC to ensure it is sensitive to the concerns of GPs, and that steps are taken to restore the confidence that has been lost.”

The council expressed “considerable concern” about the GMC’s approach to the Dr Bawa-Garba case and the way it was handled, which Stokes-Lampard said that the college intends to raise with the regulator.

The comments come almost a month after Jeremy Hunt ordered an urgent review into how manslaughter by gross negligence is applied to medical practice.

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