Patient safety

29.01.18

Dr Bawa-Garba case reveals ‘deeply concerning issues’ in NHS

The death of a six year old boy has highlighted a number of “deeply concerning issues,” the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has said.

The warning comes following last week’s High Court ruling, which saw Dr. Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence in 2015, removed from the medical register.

Whilst the Academy did not wish to comment on the specifics of the case, in a statement it has outlined issues which it says must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It argues that doctors in training must be given adequate supervision, even in stressful, pressured environments.

The Academy argued that decision making must have sufficient consultant oversight in order to protect both junior doctors and their patients, whilst allowing them to work and develop.

Safe and effective care is delivered through systems, each part of which must function. The Academy has warned that this includes safe staffing levels, functioning IT, and supporting those returning to work.

It added that these systems must be “scrutinised as a whole and improved in the light of near misses, safety incidents or patients being harmed.”

Medical profession at ‘crunch point’

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair, said that the medical profession is at “crunch point” and echoed the sentiment that the case has raised wider concerns about how to protect patients and support doctors working in a health service which is under “extreme pressure.”

He explained that a number of factors, including a lack of resources and staff shortages, combine to impair clinicians’ abilities to provide safe, high quality care.

“It is vital that these critical system pressures are addressed by politicians, as well as this being fundamental to the GMC's aim of ensuring patient safety.”

The Academy added that staff must be able to reflect honestly, openly and safely, without fear of recrimination as part of the learning process: “The threat of this being used in a potentially negative way may potentially promote a lack of candour as well as loss of learning opportunities.”

Nagpaul also expressed concerns that how this important professional development and learning tool is used: “It is important that patient safety is not undermined through clinicians being deterred from engaging with reflective practices about patient care for fear of reprisal.

It is vital that we promote a culture of support and openness in the NHS that addresses the root causes of the pressures undermining doctors' ability to do their best for patients.”

Top image: Richard Vernalls

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