RCEM response to high court ruling on the case of Hadiza Bawa-Garba

26 January 2018

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine fully supports the Academy of Medical Royal College’s statement on the Bawa Garba case and agree that nothing positive can be said to have come from this.

While we fully understand and thoroughly empathise with the grieving family and respect the actions of the legal system and the High Court to strike off Dr Bawa-Garba, we are extremely concerned about the implications of this decision. We believe that unless clear action is now taken, the consequences of this case will have a damaging effect on the morale of junior and senior staff managing risks which are often much outside of their control. 
We recognise the GMC guidance on what doctors should do when working in intense environments. Such pressures causes much stress for staff and often results in safety being put in jeopardy, as this case so tragically proved. 
Doctors, especially those in training, must feel that they are adequately supported when working, with appropriate clinical supervision, and encouraged to speak up when the practices in their system may put patients at risk, such as overcrowding in emergency departments. When mistakes are made doctors must not be afraid to admit and learn from their errors, and systems must then look to rectify and improve problems accordingly. 

The challenges that have been created by this sad case must be overcome, especially with regard to reflective practice. We believe this must be done openly and honestly. We will provide further guidance in this area in due course but in the meantime refer to that by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. We will also work with the GMC and other relevant bodies to address these vitally important issues as soon as is reasonably possible.
We also look to system leaders and regulators to ensure our emergency departments and hospitals are made as safe as possible for patients by creating an environment that staff feel fully supported in, are valued and able to record their practices of reflection in an open manner.