RCoA response to Williams’ review report on gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare

Responding to Sir Norman Williams’ rapid policy review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare, Dr Liam Brennan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“It must not be forgotten that the origin of this review was a family’s tragic loss, with the premature death of a child. The recommendations of this report, calling for better clarity and consistency in relation to gross negligence manslaughter (GNM), will ultimately support the overriding objective to enhance patient safety, by cultivating a healthcare environment that is receptive to learning from human and systemic errors.

“It is by embedding this cultural shift, rather than looking at where blame should be laid, that we will have the best chance of preventing tragedies being repeated.

“As the review notes, the way in which prosecuting authorities and professional authorities might use a healthcare professional’s reflective material still requires clarification, but we welcome the review’s recommendation for reflective material to be excluded from fitness to practice procedures as a first step.

“We are pleased that the review recognises the role that medical Royal Colleges should play in developing a framework of good practice for expert medical witnesses. We have been clear that clinical expertise, reflecting practice contemporary to when the incident occurred, is vital to providing an impartial and informed opinion in such sensitive and important cases.

“We also welcome the recommendation for the establishment of a virtual specialist unit from police forces across England that is able to draw on experience of previous GNM cases, in order to consolidate the collective institutional knowledge within the police service”.

11 June 2018