IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Error terror: Protest against ‘scapegoat’ medic decision

Doctors tear up certificates awarded by the General Medical Council during Euston protest in support of paediatrician Hadiza Bawa Garba

08 February, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Outside the GMC, Dr David Nicholl, centre, tears up his certificate in protest

EMINENT neurologist Dr David Nicholl put on a theatrical show of protest outside the General Medical Council in Euston on Saturday after it struck off the medical register a woman paediatrician – and four days later health secretary Jeremy Hunt appears to have accepted his demands.

This was probably nudged by an unprecedented nationwide surge of protest by doctors – both trainees and consultants – in support of the paediatrician Hadiza Bawa Garba who had been struck off for making fatal errors while caring for a six year-old boy.

Last week, the GMC won an appeal against her suspension from the register and barred her from the profession.

An angry Dr Nicholl tore up his GMC-awarded certificate qualifying him to practice as a consultant on the steps of the GMC offices to the applause of scores of doctors, several of them from the local area.

He condemned the GMC’s officials as “muppets” and the decision on Hadiza Bawa Garba as “abhorrent” and called for a parliamentary inquiry into the case. And hey presto, Jeremy Hunt seemed to say “Yes” to that on Tuesday.

Dr Nicholl alleged the GMC took no action against 100 doctors placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register yet acted against Hadiza Bawa Garba. And he questioned why doctors who had allegedly defrauded medical insurance companies were allowed to remain on the register.

How the British Medical Journal reported the Bawa-Garba case

By “scapegoating” doctors such as Hadiza Bawa Garba, the GMC was bringing the practice of medicine into “disrepute”, he said. Honest failures by doctors should not lead to blame and retribution but a drive to reduce risk for future patients, he wrote in an open letter to the GMC.

Meanwhile, doctors – including scores at Camden hospitals – have raised more than £300,000 within a few days to cover the legal costs of Hadiza Bawa Garba, a Nigerian, who plans to appeal against the GMC’s decision.

The British Medical Journal, the august weekly voice of the medical profession, appeared to cast aside its normal detachment and campaign in her defence.

Protesting doctors believe Hadiza Bawa Garba was a scapegoat for systemic failures and could have been the victim of racism. They point out that the consultant in charge was not in the hospital the day of the boy’s admission because of a diary mix up. Her registrar was not there either, while she was also covering for another junior colleague. She had just returned from maternity leave but had not been given the required induction, while she found herself covering six wards across four floors.

Now, doctors argue medics will stop recording errors in their work for fear they could be used against them as it was in the case of Hadiza Bawa Garba whose self-incriminating “reflection” was part of the prosecution’s case leading to her conviction for manslaughter for gross negligence.

• A Freedom of Information disclosure circulating in the Twitter chain used by doctors shows that of the male medical managers of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead 10 per cent are from “visible ethnic minorities” while only one female manager is classified as “undefined”.

The FoI document also shows 29 per cent of the Free’s “catchment population” are from “visible ethnic minorities”. Altogether in the NHS 32 per cent of consultants are from ethnic minorities.

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