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Saturday, 23 June, 2001, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Bristol scandal 'leads to little change'
police wisheart
Doctors were struck off by the General Medical Council
The shockwaves generated by the Bristol heart babies affair have failed to reshape how the profession works, a BBC documentary has found.

Sunday's Panorama reports how, while cardiac surgeons are now more open about their success rates, doctors in other specialities appear to have made little progress.

Three doctors were disciplined by the General Medical Council - two being struck off - in the wake of evidence that death rates at Bristol Royal Infirmary for heart surgery on babies was much higher than in other centres.

Preliminary statistical reports to the inquiry have revealed how the paediatric cardiac unit appeared to perform far worse than others around the country.


We were the first speciality to go through this trial by fire

Dr Stewart Hunter, cardiologist

Panorama found that cardiac specialists are trying hard to improve the quality of the information submitted to national databases, but there appears to be little progress elsewhere, even if the doctors are willing.

Dr Stewart Hunter, a cardiologist, and one of the outside doctors sent in to investigate Bristol, told Panorama: "We were the first speciality to go through this trial by fire, and I think the profession is very much in favour of having some form of audit or peer review or regulatory mechanism so that we don't run into this trouble again."

'Things will change'

Barry Jackson, from the Royal College of Surgeons, conceded that not much had changed, but added: "I think there's still a little way to go but it's changing and as I quite rightly said, you can't change a culture that existed for perhaps a hundred years overnight.

"But it will change and it is changing."

He said that the younger generation of doctors would "do things differently", although the change might overall take 10 to 15 years.

Panorama talked to officials in one US state which makes the results of audits involving individual doctors available freely to patients.

However, in the UK, the nearest thing to this is the Dr Foster website.

Professor Brian Jarman, from Dr Foster, says that within a few years, it may be possible to compare surgeon with surgeon.

Panorama: No More Broken Hearts? will be broadcast on BBC One at 2215 on Sunday 24 June, and via a live stream on the Panorama site.

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See also:

12 Jun 01 | Health
Ban on surgeon extended
12 Jun 00 | Health
GMC on the ropes
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