RCPCH statement on the publication of the Williams Review

The College responds to the publication of the Williams Review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare.

The Williams Review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare has been published by the Department of Health and Social Care. The review makes recommendations with a view to supporting a more just and learning culture in the healthcare system. 

Responding to the review, Dr Mike Linney, Registrar of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) welcomes the publication of the Sir Norman Williams’ review, which has been much anticipated by our members following last year’s Hadiza Bawa Garba case. The RCPCH was represented at review hearings. 

We hope that the new measures being proposed by the Secretary of State - including removal of the GMC’s (General Medical Council) powers to appeal against the findings of doctors’ disciplinary hearings, more support for medical professionals in such situations, and more data sharing on doctors’ performance to encourage transparency and improvement - will help foster a culture of supporting doctors to learn from mistakes, rather than one which seeks to blame. 

In particular, the report’s recommendation that the GMC should no longer be able to require registrants to provide reflective material when investigating fitness to practise cases would encourage doctors to use their notes for honest, open reflection without fear of negative repercussion. Measures to formally adopt this recommendation, along with clarity about whether Royal Colleges would still be asked to provide reflections in such cases – potentially a significant loophole – would be greatly welcomed.

The RCPCH was particularly alert to the need to better examine the health system within providers where gross negligence manslaughter and potentially other serious incidents occur, how these are investigated and the lines of responsibility within organisations. We therefore welcome the review's recommendations on local investigations and the potential involvement of other bodies such as the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and the Health and Safety Executive.

We await further details on what these measures will mean in practice for individual cases, and how they will be implemented going forward. The RCPCH will consider the report and recommendations in depth and issue a full response in the coming days.