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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 14:09 GMT
Reaction: Doctors regulation
Dame Janet Smith
Dame Janet Smith headed the inquiry
The inquiry into the Harold Shipman murders says the General Medical Council is not doing enough to protect patients.

It calls for a shake-up in the council, designed to ensure that its top priority is to protect patients.

General Medical Council

Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern

Maureen Baker, Royal College of General Practitioners

Kathleen Wood, relative of Shipman victim

Barry Swann, relative of Shipman victim

Rosey Foster, Institute of Healthcare Management

Chris Gawne, solicitor to families of Shipman victims

James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association

Niall Dickson, King's Fund Chief Executive

General Medical Council

"We recognise that Dame Janet makes serious criticisms of the way we operated our procedures in the past.

"We accepted at the outset of the Inquiry that our past fitness to practise procedures were not adequate. New procedures were introduced on 1 November 2004, as part of the biggest reforms of medical regulation in 150 years.

We welcome Dame Janet's conclusion that the GMC cannot be criticised or held responsible for the fact that Shipman was free to re-enter unsupervised general practice following his conviction for his drugs offence in 1976.

"As Dame Janet says, the GMC could not have suspected Shipman's true nature at that time.

"The public are now involved in every stage of our processes, from 40% membership of our governing body, the Council, to the public sitting on, and frequently chairing, the panels that judge cases against doctors.

"We also have a patient and public reference group. We will further strengthen public involvement over the next 12 months.

"We are making every effort to make our own procedures accessible, streamlined and transparent, but we have long called for a 'single portal' that could be the confidential first port of call for people with concerns. We welcome Dame Janet's support for this proposal."

Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern

'Ideally, we would have liked to see the GMC lose its regulatory powers.

"Patients will never be convinced that an organisation paid for by doctors will lean far enough towards protecting their interests.

"However, the report recommendations should give a kick start to a further much-needed round of improvements within the GMC.

"The whole complaints system, from the primary care trust level right up to the GMC must be more flexible and be given more teeth.

"Nine out of ten complaints to the GMC are screened out, so no investigation ever takes place.

"Only very serious matters will be heard and then 'serious professional misconduct' must be proved - even though the GMC has no definition of what constitutes such misconduct."

Maureen Baker, Royal College of General Practitioners

"Dame Janet did have some very critical things to say in her report, but she does also say that the vast majority of doctors do provide good quality care for their patients. It is certainly worth remembering that.

"The GMC will need to look to its processes and structures, and to consider Dame Janet's recommendations very seriously.

"It certainly seems that the lay input into the GMC should be strengthened, and as a doctor I would certainly endorse that.

"It is very difficult in any circumstances to legislate against their being a murderer. I do think, though, that the chances that have taken place over recent years together with the suggestions that Dame Janet makes in her report will make it very much more difficult for anyone to operate in such a terrible, evil way ever again.

"The college has certainly always felt that the public should be able to make informed choices, to have the knowledge about the professional standards that a doctor operates to, and to be able to put those choices into operation."

Kathleen Wood, whose 83-year-old mother Bessie Baddeley was killed by Shipman.

"The GMC were probably looking after each other. That was the way things were then.

"What is important is that after these reports things have changed.

"The most important thing for the families was to make people and organisations look at themselves and think about whether they were doing the best they could to look after patients.

"Systems have changed and everybody seems to have tightened up the rules on how to check up on doctors.

"I am sure the GMC will pay attention to these comments because they would be mad not to.

"We are relieved and pleased that, thanks to this inquiry, no one else will have to suffer the same tragedy we have."

Barry Swann whose 79-year-old mother Bessie died at the hands of Shipman.

"It comes as no surprise Dame Janet says the GMC protected their own. I knew that in 1997 when my mother died.

"The doctors cannot be trusted to govern themselves. We need a completely independent group to look out for the best interests of patients.

"Doctors are in an incredibly privileged position and they need to be whiter than white.

"If we can't trust the group that is supposed to ensure they are spotless, then what kind of faith are people going to have in the medical profession?

"The inquiry is not about blame but it is clear the GMC must get its house in order."

Rosey Foster, acting chief executive of the Institute of Healthcare Management.

"If we have learned anything from Shipman it is that there were governance failures across the board.

"If such catastrophes are to be avoided in the future clinicians and managers must work more closely and share the responsibility for identifying significant events at the earliest moment possible.

"Being able to voice concerns without fear is an integral part of the Institute's Code of Professional Conduct to which all our members are committed.

"This places an onus on managers to speak out.

"It could be argued that staying silent led to the deaths of 15 patients and that can never be allowed to happed again."

Chris Gawne, solicitor for the families of Shipman's victims.

"We are happy with what Dame Janet has had to say. The important thing for the families has always been that changes are made to ensure as far as possible that such a thing cannot happen again.

Chris Gawne
Chris Gawne is happy with the recommendations
"As long as the recommendations that have been made today are put in place we feel that the likelihood of recurrence is going to be minimised.

"It is now over to the government to review the recommendations, and we would like to see those recommendations actually being put in place.

"The GMC must be there in order to protect patients, and what Dame Janet has found is that it has not been doing that properly.

"She has made recommendations that I believe will try to ensure that happens properly in future, and that is what is vitally important."

James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association

"Even in the immediate aftermath of Shipman's trial, when everyone in the country was aware of the horrors he inflicted, a MORI poll showed people trusted their doctors more than any other profession.

"No one is complacent, we recognise that the medical profession has to demonstrate that it deserves that trust.

"The climate in the profession has changed since Shipman.

"The GMC has re-formed and tightened up the way it handles complaints against doctors.

"GPs are even more careful with recording their use of controlled drugs and when signing death and cremation certificates, and health professionals are aware they must question what colleagues do and the way they do it."

Niall Dickson, King's Fund Chief Executive

"It is right that the report reminds the GMC of the primary importance of protecting patients, and urges it to be more radical in the way that it monitors doctors.

"We also welcome that the GMC has been given a realistic timetable to put its house in order.

"A few years ago the GMC had a far reaching proposal for an effective MOT for all doctors - they retreated from that, and Dame Janet is right to criticise this.

"However, implementing a more active test of a doctor's fitness to practise, and ensuring more vigilant oversight, is not the sole responsibility of the GMC, but should be shared with their employers.

"We need to find monitoring systems for doctors that are rigorous and protect patients, but at the same time recognise that most doctors are doing a good job."

Q&A: Shipman Inquiry
09 Dec 04 |  Health

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