10 Apr 2014

In response to the article in today’s Racing Post (10 April 2014) below is background to the report compiled by Ben Gunn and the statement which was provided to the newspaper by Paul Bittar.

The Ben Gunn Review took evidence from all the relevant parties concerned following the referral by the then BHA Chief Medical Advisor of three Racecourse Medical Officers, who operate at Cheltenham, to the General Medical Council in the build-up to the course’s October meeting in 2013. In the Review’s findings there was no specific criticism of Paul Bittar. The Review did identify that the key learnings related to the delay in the Chief Medical Advisor referring the doctors in question to the GMC, which ended up being a matter of days before the Cheltenham October meeting, and a failure to inform Cheltenham Racecourse of his concerns at an earlier stage.

The Review collated the various views expressed, came to a conclusion, and then made recommendations on the defects in process which were identified.

The Review was not published because it contained information – including personal information – which was given in confidence by people who took part in the review on that basis to encourage openness.

The purpose of the Review was to identify where processes should be improved were a similar set of circumstances to occur.

Paul Bittar, BHA Chief Executive, said:

“The Review is clear in its finding that the delay in Dr Turner coming to his decision to refer the matter to the GMC was unacceptable, and the timing of the referral so close to Cheltenham’s October meeting provided a challenging and unprecedented set of circumstances for the racecourse and BHA to overcome.

“It should be remembered that Dr Turner had been in his position as Chief Medical Adviser for over 20 years. The role of CMA is to provide BHA with medical advice which others within are not qualified to give or over-rule.

“We firmly refute the claim that BHA did not grasp the gravity of the situation. On the contrary, BHA worked hard with the stakeholders concerned to resolve the issue. Our objective throughout was to ensure that racing went ahead at the Cheltenham October meeting, but with the necessary framework and designated standards in place to protect all parties. This objective was ultimately achieved.

“We recognise, however, that the processes followed in order to meet that objective were not without difficulties and there are lessons to be learnt. As the review clearly stated, there were no protocols in place to deal with such a situation. Hence BHA instigated the Ben Gunn Review to see what measures should be taken to avoid a repeat in the future.”

“We would like to place on the record our disappointment that the contents of the Review have been made public. This is a confidential report containing personal information on a sensitive and complex matter. The frank and open contributions made were given in confidence and on the assumption that the contents would remain confidential.

“With regard to the actual findings and recommendations, BHA has nothing to hide.”