• GMC to adopt human factors approach to investigations
  • Change follows high profile case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba
  • Work will be delivered by the Oxford University’s Patient Safety Academy

Investigators for the General Medical Council are to be given “human factors” training amid changes to the regulator’s investigative processes.

The medical watchdog said all its fitness to practise decision makers, case examiners and clinical experts will go through the training as part of a project with Oxford University’s Patient Safety Academy.

It has also said it will look to adopt the approach locally with responsible officers in NHS trusts applying the same approach when dealing with concerns about a doctor’s conduct and performance.

The GMC is working to improve its image among doctors after the high profile case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba who the GMC pursued following her conviction for gross negligence manslaughter.

The GMC has said it wants to draw on human factors approaches to investigations for doctors so that it properly understands and appreciates where system errors contributed.

Many clinicians cited widespread system errors as being contributory to the death of Jack Adcock in 2011 and a fitness to practise panel concluded Dr Bawa-Garba was guilty of misconduct within a wider context of systemic error and chose not to strike her off.

That decision was appealed by the GMC which believed she should have been struck off. It lost the case at the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

Human factors is widely used in the aviation and nuclear industries and has been adopted for the NHS by the new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: “This collaboration will make sure that human factors are hardwired into our investigations so that the role systems and workplaces play in events is fully and evenly evaluated in assessing context following serious failings.

“That will guarantee consistency in how we investigate after things have gone wrong and give doctors the assurance that their actions will be seen clearly against the backdrop of any system failings.”

Oxford University’s Patient Safety Academy is funded by Health Education England and hosted within the Nuffield Department of Surgical Science at Oxford University.

Professor Peter McCulloch, co-director of the academy said: “Integrating human factors into the fitness to practice process will involve both staff training and modification of procedures and documentation, to ensure that the knowledge acquired is embedded into the investigative process.

“Our aim in this work is to ensure that context and systems issues are always fully taken into account when evaluating a doctor’s performance, allowing doctors to have confidence in the fairness of GMC procedures.”