Reviewing medical manslaughter laws

GMC Statement

06 Feb 2018

We welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State to conduct a rapid review into whether gross negligence manslaughter laws are fit for purpose.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council said:

‘We welcome the announcement today from the Secretary of State to conduct a rapid review into whether gross negligence manslaughter laws are fit for purpose in healthcare in England. The issues around GNM within healthcare have been present for a number of years, and we have been engaged in constructive discussions with medical leaders on this issue.

‘As an independent UK-wide medical regulator we have committed to bringing together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from all four countries to explore how gross negligence manslaughter or its equivalent in the devolved nations is applied to medical practice, in situations where the risk of death is a constant and in the context of systemic pressure. That work will include a renewed focus on reflection and provision of support for doctors in raising concerns.

‘Doctors are working in extremely challenging conditions, and we recognise that any doctor can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure. We know that we cannot immediately resolve all of the profession’s concerns, but we are determined to do everything possible to bring positive improvements out of this issue.

‘We look forward to participating in the government’s review and will ensure that the outputs from Sir Norman Williams’ work feed into our own wider four country review.’


Notes to editors

The General Medical Council (GMC) works to protect the public by setting, upholding and raising the standards of medical education and practice across the UK.

It does this by:

  • Setting the standards doctors must follow, making sure they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  •  Deciding which doctors are qualified to work here, and overseeing UK medical education and training.
  • Taking action if a doctor is putting the safety of patients, or the public’s confidence in doctors, at risk.

It is in the public interest to have healthcare systems in the UK, both public and private, where doctors practise to the highest ethical and professional standards to provide the best possible, safe medical care.

The GMC is independent of government and the medical profession, and accountable to the UK Parliament.

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