Recommendations from Hamilton review into gross negligence manslaughter are welcome, says MDU

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has welcomed recommendations into how the law on gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide are applied to medical practice.

Leslie Hamilton's independent review into how the law on gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide are applied to medical practice has been published today.

The MDU especially welcomes the report's recommendations relating to local investigations and legal advice for coroners, which it highlighted as particular areas of concern:

  • If a doctor is being investigated for gross negligence manslaughter, the appropriate external authority should scrutinise the systems within the department where the doctor worked.
  • Improvements in patient safety are most likely to come through local investigations into patient safety incidents which focus on learning not placing blame.
  • For consistency, if a coroner feels that a doctor's conduct might reach the threshold for gross negligence manslaughter, this should be discussed with the chief coroner's office.

The report also contained several recommendations relating to the GMC, all of which it accepted. In particular, the MDU welcomed that the process of recruitment and quality assurance should be made more transparent by the GMC, particularly in instances of doctors providing expert reports.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison, commented:

'We welcome the recommendations made today in the Hamilton report, for example the recommendation that appropriate external authorities should scrutinise the systems of the department in which a doctor being investigated for gross negligence manslaughter was working. A consistent approach of this type could be more effective and lead to fairer investigations.

'The MDU had previously recommended to the Williams review that coroners should be required to liaise with the chief coroner's office for advice on whether a doctor's case has reached the threshold for gross negligence manslaughter.

'The Williams review made this a recommendation and we are pleased it this has been given further support in the Hamilton report. Having a senior person provide a filter in this way would be a positive safeguard against inappropriate referrals of doctors for gross negligence manslaughter.'

This guidance was correct at publication 06/06/2019. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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