Doctor convicted of negligence over death of six-year-old boy can practise again

A doctor who received a suspended jail sentence over the death of a six-year-old boy can practise again, a medical tribunal has ruled.

Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has not worked since November 2015 when a jury convicted her of gross negligence manslaughter in her treatment of Jack Adcock who developed sepsis and died of cardiac arrest at Leicester Royal Infirmary in February 2011.

Among her failures were making an incorrect diagnosis of gastro-enteritis on initial examination of the youngster – who had Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition – and not acting on a clinical reading which “ought to have been a clear indicator” of sepsis, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing was told.

Subsequently she was sentenced in December 2015 at Nottingham Crown Court to two years in jail, suspended for the same period.

Jack Adcock
Jack Adcock, who died at Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2011 (Family handout/Leicestershire Police/PA)

Lawyers told that hearing the career of Dr Bawa-Garba – who had wanted to be a doctor since the age of 13 – was over in light of the conviction.

She was later barred from practise for 12 months before the General Medical Council (GMC) took the case to the High Court to appeal against the sanction, saying it was “not sufficient” and Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off in January 2018.

But last August the Court of Appeal ruled her name should be restored to the medical register and her case be sent back to the MPTS.

On Tuesday, a tribunal determined that a raft of conditions be imposed on her registration for 24 months from the end of July when her 12-month suspension ends.

The conditions include that Dr Bawa-Garba must be closely supervised by a clinical supervisor, she must have an educational supervisor and she must allow the GMC to exchange information with any person involved in monitoring her compliance with her conditions.

The tribunal directed a review of Dr Bawa-Garba’s case take place shortly before the end of the period of conditional registration in which the doctor will be expected to show she has made a successful return to clinical practice and her skills and knowledge are up-to-date.

Dr Bawa-Garba told the tribunal: “This case will live with me for the rest of my life.”

Tribunal chairwoman Claire Sharp said the risk of Dr Bawa-Garba putting another patient at unwarranted risk of harm was low and the evidence showed she had undertaken a “significant” amount of remediation.

Mrs Sharp said: “Given the remediation Dr Bawa-Garba has already undertaken and the full insight she has developed into her shortcomings, the tribunal was satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba has the potential to respond positively to remediation, retraining, and to her work being supervised.

“From the evidence before it the tribunal was also satisfied that Dr Bawa-Garba remains fully committed to keeping her skills and knowledge up-to-date and that she has made substantial progress in doing so, despite not being in clinical practice.”

Dr Bawa-Garba was “on the cusp” of becoming a consultant prior to the incident as a specialist registrar but plans to take a step back in grade “some years” when she returns to work in February 2020 following maternity leave, the hearing in Manchester was told.

She will undergo a national recruitment process where all paediatric trainees are reassessed in which, according to her barrister Michael Hayton QC, would “put her to the test quite literally to show she is capable of performing at an adequate level”.

Arguing for conditions, Mr Hayton conceded there was a series of failures on her part that led to her performing far below acceptable standards in 2011 but added “these failings stand in isolation” in her career.

Simon Jackson QC, for the GMC, agreed that the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case was now a period of conditional registration.

Jack’s parents Nicky, 45, and Victor, 53, from Glen Parva, Leicestershire, fiercely opposed the doctor being allowed to practise again.

Giving evidence on Monday via videolink from her home after recently giving birth to her fourth child, Dr Bawa-Garba told the tribunal: “This case will live with me for the rest of my life.”

The actions of the GMC to appeal the original suspension angered many doctors who said important issues raised by the case – including dangerous levels of understaffing, failures of IT systems and staff working in inappropriate conditions – had been ignored.

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