Health Policy


Hunt orders review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare

Jeremy Hunt has ordered an urgent review into how gross negligence manslaughter is applied in healthcare, amidst concerns over the Dr Bawa-Garba case.

In 2015 Hadiza Bawa-Garba was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and suspended from the medical register for 12 months, following the death of a six year old boy.

Last month the General Medical Council (GMC) won a High Court appeal, which meant that the junior doctor was permanently erased from the register.

Thousands of medics have responded, arguing that the conviction ignored NHS failings and staff shortages which contributed to the child’s death.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, MP Dr Caroline Johnson said that she has seen the negative impact that this case has had on reflective learning in practice.

The health and social care secretary, who has previously expressed concerns over the Bawa-Garba case, said that there are concerns that doctors who want the freedom to learn from mistakes may not have a voice.

“The recent Dr. Bawa-Garba case has caused huge concern,” he told the House of Commons.

“Today I can announce that I’ve asked Professor Sir Norman Williams, former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, my senior clinical advisor, to conduct a rapid review in to the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare.”

Williams will work alongside senior lawyers to establish how to ensure that reflective learning continues and mistakes are not covered up, and any lessons that need to be learned by the GMC.

Hunt continued: “How we ensure clarity in where the line is drawn between gloss negligence manslaughter and ornery human error in medical practice so that doctors and other health professionals know where they stand in respect to criminal liability and professional misconduct.”

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, has welcomed the review: “The issues around gross negligence manslaughter within healthcare have been present for a number of years, and we have been engaged in constructive discussions with medical leaders on this issue.”

He added that the GMC’s work, which explores how gross negligence manslaughter or its equivalent in the devolved nations is applied to medical practice, will include a “renewed focus” on reflection and the provision of support for doctors in raising concerns.

“Doctors are working in extremely challenging conditions, and we recognise that any doctor can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure,” he continued.

“We know that we cannot immediately resolve all of the profession’s concerns, but we are determined to do everything possible to bring positive improvements out of this issue.

Dr. Rob Hendry, medical director at the Medical Protection Society, said: “Gross negligence manslaughter cases are usually complex, involve systems failures, and are devastating for all concerned.

“A conviction should not automatically mean that a doctor who has fully remediated and demonstrated insight into their clinical failings is erased.”

He concluded: “The strength of feeling on the outcome of the Dr Bawa-Garba case, and the deep concern around its impact on an open, learning culture in healthcare, has been clear to see.

“We are pleased that these concerns, and the need to identify learnings, have been acknowledged by the secretary of state.”

The report is expected to be completed by the end of April 2018.

Top image: Joe Giddens PA Archive

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Highest ever numbers accept GP training posts

19/10/2018Highest ever numbers accept GP training posts

The number of people entering GP training is the highest in NHS history, according to new figures from Health Education England (HEE). A tot... more >
‘No realistic prospect of progress’ for integrated health and social care, PAC warns

19/10/2018‘No realistic prospect of progress’ for integrated health and social care, PAC warns

The government is still “a long way” from achieving an effective strategy for integrated health and social care and has been urged to... more >
One in six trusts could end PFI contracts due to poor performance as NHS heads for £1bn loss

19/10/2018One in six trusts could end PFI contracts due to poor performance as NHS heads for £1bn loss

A new report has revealed that 15% of all NHS trusts using private finance initiatives (PFI) could terminate contracts due to poor performance. ... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

the scalpel's daily blog

On your bike!

17/10/2018On your bike!

Sathish Sethuraman, travel and transport plan co-ordinator at Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT, explains how efforts to promote cycling to work at the trust are resulting in more staff travelling on two wheels. At Northumbria Healthcare, we are committed to becoming a greener organisation and reducing the environmental impact of delivering p... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


Recoup and recover

10/10/2018Recoup and recover

The ease and round-the-clock nature of making cashless payments has transformed the way we pay for goods and services – and, from now on, t... more >
The clinical voice at the heart of procurement

10/10/2018The clinical voice at the heart of procurement

Jo Gander, director of the Clinical and Product Assurance (CaPA) team, talks about their role as part of the new NHS Supply Chain. NHS Suppl... more >
Deal or no deal?

10/10/2018Deal or no deal?

Dr Andrew Dearden, BMA treasurer and Brexit lead, takes a look at what different Brexit scenarios could means for both patients and healthcare pr... more >
A push for digital in mental health

10/10/2018A push for digital in mental health

Sean Duggan, chief executive of NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, argues that mental health services could hugely benefit from dig... more >


Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >
Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

02/10/2017Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

NHE interviews Gillian Fox, head of eProcurement (Scan4Safety) programme at NHS Supply Chain. How has the Scan4Safety initiative evolved sin... more >

health service focus

View all News