Royal College of Physicians of Ireland to review protocols for trainees in light of Dr Bawa Garba case

RCPI expresses full support for trainee doctors

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland is to review protocols for doctors on its medical training programmes in light of the issues arising from the outcome of the recent case in the UK against Dr Bawa Garba.

President Prof Mary Horgan and CEO Leo Kearns and other senior executives met a delegation representing doctors on its medical training programmes this week to hear their concerns and to update them on the RCPI response.

Prof Mary Horgan said, “The College is aware of the Dr Bawa Garba case and is actively addressing the issues around it as a priority. RCPI and its training bodies fully support the doctors on our specialist medical training programmes and is advocating for improved staffing levels and adequate supports for trainees. We are deeply concerned that a single trainee was held accountable when there were so many systemic errors in this case. This is unacceptable."

“RCPI is currently reviewing the protocols for reflective entries in ePortfolio logbooks as part of its upgrading of ePortfolio and will issue new guidance shortly. We will continue to keep trainees informed, as we all work to ensure the best possible care for our patients.  I will also be raising this issue with the Medical Council of Ireland,” Prof Horgan said.

Statement from the RCPI Trainees' Committee

Dr James Mahon, Chair of the RCPI Trainees’ Committee, welcomed the RCPI's support and swift response to address their concerns.

“I can assure trainees on RCPI training programmes that their concerns are being addressed at the highest levels," Dr Mahon said.

The RCPI Trainees’ Committee represents doctors in training across 26 medical specialties in hospitals and communities throughout the Irish health system. 

Dr Mahon said, “We work in systems that are frequently under severe pressures and under-resourced from a staffing, funding, and infrastructural perspective. Despite often unsafe working environments, trainee doctors, who are at the frontline of acute medical care, continue to provide essential care to sick patients. We strive to achieve the highest possible standard of care for the people of Ireland."

Dr James Mahon, Chair RCPI Trainees' Committee

We share the concerns of other trainee doctors that the goal of promoting a culture of reflection and learning from error may be adversely affected by a fear of regulatory processes and perceptions of a punitive approach aimed at attributing blame.

Dr James Mahon

Chair, RCPI Trainees' Committee

When errors occur it is crucial to reflect

Dr James Mahon said, “Trainee doctors – like all medical professionals – sometimes make mistakes with adverse outcomes. 

"As the representative body of trainees in RCPI, we agree with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) statement, Reflective practise and reducing risk in healthcare (29 Jan 2018), that when errors occur it is crucial to reflect, understand why the mistake happened, and do everything possible to prevent a similar occurrence again."

Culture of reflection and learning from error may be adversely affected

Dr James Mahon continued, “Trainees on RCPI programmes have a responsibility to complete their ePortfolio logbook. It is the trainee’s legal record of the training programme and can by audited by the Irish Medical Council.

"This logbook includes criteria for entries for reflective practice. We share the concerns of other trainee doctors that the goal of promoting a culture of reflection and learning from error may be adversely affected by a fear of regulatory processes and perceptions of a punitive approach aimed at attributing blame.

"The issues raised in the case of Dr Bawa Garba may have an impact on trainees in that it may influence the confidence that trainee doctors have in documenting honest reflections on their practice if things have gone wrong,” Dr Mahon said.

"In our view, the College stands united with its trainees, in that a single trainee should not be held accountable for major systematic failures."

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RCPI Trainees' Committee

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The RCPI Trainees' Committee (formerly known as the Collegiate Members Committee) is the longest-running Trainee committee in RCPI. We are always looking for more Trainees and Collegiate Members to get involved and become part of a group that can really make a difference.

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