Junior Doctor wins Appeal

Many of you will be aware of the tragic death of Jack Adcock who was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary in February 2011.

Dr Bawa-Garba was a sixth year registrar covering the acute ward. She had just returned from maternity leave and had a previously impeccable record. She first saw Jack at about 10.30am and ordered tests to be carried out. Dr Bawa-Garba was involved with other critical patients until around 3pm when she then reviewed Jack’s x-ray and immediately prescribed antibiotics. Due to a failure in the hospital’s computer system blood tests were not available until 4.15pm. During a handover Dr Bawa-Garba raised concerns about the results of the blood tests and the diagnosis of pneumonia. Initial notes did not specify that Jack’s medication for his heart condition should be discontinued, this was administered by his mother as normal and he was transferred to the ward at 7pm. At 8pm there was a “crash-call” and Jack very sadly died at 9.20pm.

In November 2015 Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of manslaughter on the basis of negligence and given a 24 month suspended sentence. This was appealed and in December 2016 her conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. In December 2017 The General Medical Council then took action and had Dr Bawa-Garba struck off the medical registrar. This raised considerable concern amongst medical professionals and was appealed by Dr Bawa-Garba. The Court of Appeal unanimously allowed her appeal and her name has been restored to the medical register. She will be allowed to practise again following a period of suspension and retraining which was the initial recommendation of the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service.

There has been significant criticism of the handling of the matter by the General Medical Council. There have also been calls to review the way that manslaughter charges are applied in medicine. Many also believe that Dr Bawa-Garba was a “scape-goat” in a situation where there were also issues of understaffing, computer failures and an overstretched NHS rather than a lapse in judgement by one junior doctor. There were no doubt significant failings in Jack’s care but the criminal standard of manslaughter was not met and the penalty of being struck off the medical register, in this instance, was not proportionate according to the Court of Appeal.