RCPsych response to High Court ruling on Dr Bawa-Garba

Statement / comment
26 January 2018

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “The sad loss of Jack’s life in 2011 is tragic. There are clear lessons that must be learnt to prevent this happening again. During the case, some of the reflective notes - made by trainee doctors as part of their training about what could have been done differently - were used as evidence.

Reflective practice in medicine is designed to make patients safer by creating a culture where doctors can learn from previous experience and develop their skills throughout training. The Royal College of Psychiatrists supports the statement made by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges last night (26.01.18).

Our thoughts are with Jack Adcock’s family at this difficult time.”

Statement from Academy of Medical Royal Colleges:

“It would be inappropriate for the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to comment on the specifics of the tragic case of the death of a child that led to yesterday’s High Court ruling where Dr Bawa-Garba was erased from the medical register. Nothing positive can be said to have come from this – which makes it particularly sad.

That said, the Academy does believe the case brings into sharp focus a number of deeply concerning issues which must be addressed with some urgency. These are:

  • Doctors in training must be given adequate high-quality clinical supervision, even in the most stressful and pressured environments. They must be confident that they are able to make decisions with sufficient oversight from consultants in a way that protects them and their patients while allowing them to work and develop.Doctors in training must be given adequate high-quality clinical supervision, even in the most stressful and pressured environments. They must be confident that they are able to make decisions with sufficient oversight from consultants in a way that protects them and their patients while allowing them to work and develop.
  • All staff must be encouraged and be able to reflect honestly, openly and safely, and without the fear of recrimination as part of the vital 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.All staff must be encouraged and be able to reflect honestly, openly and safely, and without the fear of recrimination as part of the vital 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.
  • Understanding that safe and effective care is delivered through systems – and each part of these systems must function. This, by definition includes the need to ensure safe staffing levels, functioning IT, supporting those returning to work and must be scrutinised as a whole and improved in the light of near misses, safety incidents or patients being harmed.

Understanding that safe and effective care is delivered through systems – and each part of these systems must function. This, by definition includes the need to ensure safe staffing levels, functioning IT, supporting those returning to work and must be scrutinised as a whole and improved in the light of near misses, safety incidents or patients being harmed.

Patient safety is paramount and learning from previous experience in an environment of openness fosters this. The Academy recognises that medical Royal Colleges and faculties have a role to play in helping to ensure that all doctors in training are fully supported by both clinical and educational supervisors, that there are mechanisms for safe reflective learning and standards are set that include all parts of the system.

Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair, AoMRC

Dr Alice Wort, Chair Academy Trainee Doctors’ Group”

                                                         ENDS

Notes to editors

About the Royal College of Psychiatrists

  1. We are the professional medical body responsible for supporting over 18,000 psychiatrists in the UK and internationally.

  2. We set standards and promote excellence in psychiatry and mental healthcare.

  3. We lead, represent and support psychiatrists nationally and internationally to governments and other agencies.

  4. We aim to improve the outcomes of people with mental illness, and the mental health of individuals, their families and communities. We do this by working with patients, carers and other organisations interested in delivering high quality mental health services.

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