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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Progress 'too slow' after Shipman
Harold Shipman
Shipman hung himself using a ligature made from bed sheets
Ministers have been attacked for not acting on some recommendations of the inquiry into the Shipman murders.

Inquiry chairman Dame Janet Smith said she had been disappointed by the lack of progress over drug controls and checks on doctors' competence.

Her criticisms came as the impact of the killings on the doctor-patient relationship was discussed in London.

The former GP was found guilty of murdering 15 patients, but the true figure is thought to be 250.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine conference in London, she criticised the government for failing so far to implement many of her recommendations.

There are doctors who still think that everything is fine and that there is no need for change. There are still those who think Shipman was a one-off villain
Dame Janet Smith, chairman of Shipman inquiry

In a series of reports over the last few years, she called for regular checks on doctor competence and more stringent controls on death certification and access to controlled drugs such as diamorphine.

She said: "The actual positive steps so far taken seem few and small. I begin to feel there is insufficient political will to tackle this."

And she pointed out the government had spent longer considering some of her recommendations than it took her to "hear the evidence and write" them.

"There are doctors who still think that everything is fine and that there is no need for change. There are still those who think Shipman was a one-off villain," she added.

Other experts felt the doctor-patient relationship had suffered because of the killings, which took place over a 20-year period.

'Cynical'

Jonathan Montgomery, professor of health care law at Southampton University, said: "It used to be that doctors were regarded as altruistic but people are more cynical now."

Although he acknowledged other scandals such as the hospital superbug MRSA had also contributed to the change.

And Ann Alexander, a clinical negligence solicitor who represents some of the families of victims, said: "I think there is an awareness that doctors can kill and seriously harm patients."

But Angela Wagstaff, whose mother-in-law Kathleen Wagstaff, 81, was murdered by Shipman at her home in 1999, said one rogue person had not destroyed trust in a whole profession.

"If the Shipman murders had destroyed the trust between patients and doctors, then he would have won."

Dr Raj Patel, a GP in Hyde, Greater Manchester where Shipman worked, said doctors had felt "betrayed", but patients had still shown confidence in the profession and that had given GPs encouragement.

The Department of Health said ministers would shortly be considering ways to progress on some of the key recommendations.

But a spokesman said a bill to improve the monitoring and inspection over controlled drugs had been introduced.




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