Health Policy

10.04.19

Dr Bawa-Garba cleared to return to work under supervision after tribunal finds her a ‘low risk to patients’

The doctor convicted over the death of a six-year boy can return to work after a medical tribunal restored her to the medical register.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was found guilty of negligence manslaughter over the death of Jack Adcock in 2015, but the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has now ruled that she can return to work but under close supervision.

Bawa-Garba was struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2018 but she won her appeal to be reinstated to the medical register following a backlash from the medical community.

The MPTS has now stated that she posed a “low risk to patients” and said she can return to her role as a paediatrics registrar from 2020 when her maternity leave ends.

Jack Adcock was incorrectly diagnosed by Bawa-Garba in 2011 when she examined the six-year-old who suffered from a heart condition and had Down’s Syndrome.

Adcock died from a cardiac arrest caused by sepsis 11 hours after being admitted to hospital, and prosecutors in her criminal trial said his death was caused by the indirect diagnosis and “serious neglect” by staff.

Bawa-Garba was also found to have confused Adcock with another patient who had a “do not attempt resuscitation” order, and she was given a two-year suspended sentence and suspended from the medical register by the MPTS.

The GMC then appealed to have her struck off the register at the High Court, but a number of doctors claimed she was being made a scapegoat for an unsafe system that left her covering several wards without supervision.

Jenny Vaughan, law and policy officer at the Doctor’s Association UK said that whilst Jack deserved better care, Bawa-Garba was working in “appalling conditions”, and the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a review of manslaughter by gross negligence laws.

Bawa-Garba won her case in the Court of Appeal to be reinstated last year and is currently serving a suspension until July.

Following the tribunal’s ruling, she will resume work in February 2020 albeit it at a lower grade than she previously worked at – and will be under supervision for 24 months.

The MPTS recognised that her fitness to practise remains impaired, largely due to spending a significant amount of time away from frontline patient care.

Tribunal chairwoman Claire Sharp said evidence showed that Bawa-Garba had undertaken a “significant” amount of remediation and the tribunal was satisfied that the imposed conditions would be sufficient to allow her safe and successful return to practice.

Speaking at the tribunal Bawa-Garba said she was “truly sorry” for her part in Jack’s death.

Jenny Vaughan said it was “right” for Bawa-Garba to be allowed to return to work, and warned that there is a “culture of blame in the NHS at the moment which, if left unchecked, will mean patient safety is not what it should be as staff will be too scared to admit their mistakes.”

The GMC said the process had been “difficult” for the Adcock family and said it was “important the doctor’s return to practise is safely managed.”

 Image credit - Nick AnsellPA WirePA Images

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