In response to the Leslie Hamilton independent review into how the law on gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide are applied to medical practice, Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection said:
“Doctors go to work each day looking to do the best for their patients. However, things can and do go wrong and it is important that the regulatory and legal system is set up to encourage openness and learning from mistakes rather than issue punishment and blame.
“No one benefits when a doctor is singled out for blame following a clinical incident, especially when they are working in an NHS that is under unprecedented strain, and where there is a culture of fear and high levels of burnout.
“We support the review’s conclusion that any incident which results in a doctor being investigated must ensure that the environment within which the incident occurred is subject to external scrutiny.
“This independent review highlights that the GMC has work to do to improve understanding of its role and its responsibility not to punish doctors for past mistakes, but instead to ensure their ongoing fitness to practise. The report states that the GMC should consider how the environment in which doctor’s work is reflected in its guidance to tribunals and we will look to inform this work.
“The Government now needs to act quickly to review the case for reforming gross negligence manslaughter law in England so that charges are only brought against doctors if an act is proved to be intentional, reckless or grossly careless. The law and its application in Scotland is much better suited to determining the culpability of a doctor in a patient death and whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The independent reviews set up by the Government and the GMC have set out an important range of proposals that need proper consideration, but neither were set up to consider this fundamental issue. While the bar in England remains too low, there will continue to be a risk that good doctors will be criminalised for unintentional and often system-wide mistakes that are devastating for all involved.”
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The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support together with the right to request indemnity for complaints or claims arising from professional practice.
Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.
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