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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January 2005, 13:56 GMT
Patient protection top of agenda
Harold Shipman
Dame Janet Smith has made her final report into the Shipman deaths
Patients will be protected from a repeat of the Harold Shipman killings, the government has pledged.

Ministers have asked Sir Liam Donaldson, England's chief medical officer, to review measures in place to ensure doctors are fit to practice.

He will look at the way the General Medical Council regulates doctors.

The move comes as the Shipman inquiry report found the GP also killed up to 15 people early in his career, bringing the death toll to an estimated 250.

Sir Liam's review, to report later this year, will scrutinise the work of the General Medical Council that regulates doctors.
We take what Dame Janet Smith has said very seriously.
Health Secretary John Reid

Chairwoman of the inquiry Dame Janet Smith said there were important lessons to be learned from the Shipman case and that a shake-up of current safety checks was needed.

"It is sometimes said that there is no need to reform these systems because there will never be another Shipman.

"I do not agree. In my view, it was the fact that Shipman was a doctor that enabled him to kill and remain undetected," she said.

Health Secretary John Reid said: "We take what Dame Janet Smith has said very seriously.

"We will not settle for a quick and weak response to her inquiry."

Patient safety first

He said he wanted to put an end to the idea that the GMC was a representative body for doctors.

"Its primary role must be to protect patients."

Health Minister Lord Warner said Sir Liam would look very carefully at the procedures both for keeping doctors up to date and for dealing with poor performance, dangerous performance and poor conduct, to see whether they can be strengthened.

"We think they can," he said.

Change GMC structure to remove medical majority
The GMC to no longer have sole responsibility for assessing doctors' fitness to practise
The GMC to be directly accountable to Parliament
Improvements to the way doctors' performance is assessed
A central NHS database containing information on all doctors
Systems to be in place to allow staff to raise concerns

A spokesman from the GMC said: "Dame Janet questioned whether the local procedures that are currently in place are working effectively, and whether they have the ability to provide the information required.

"We are pleased that Sir Liam's review will consider these important issues carefully."

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, said: "Doctors are not complacent about patient safety and will continue to work at both local and national levels to help develop better safeguards."

"Patient safety is paramount, and the public has a right to be informed about their doctors, but It is also important that the system is fair to doctors."

Inquiry suggests measures to protect patients

Q&A: Shipman Inquiry
09 Dec 04 |  Health
Are GPs properly vetted by GMC?
09 Dec 04 |  Have Your Say
Shipman 'killed early in career'
27 Jan 05 |  Manchester

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