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Dr Ian Bogle
"Shipman is guilty, not all doctors"
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Dr John Chisholm
"No system can ever completely protect against an evil murderer"
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Tuesday, 1 February, 2000, 12:14 GMT
BMA demands reforms

BMA press conference The BMA has called for change

Regulations governing the issue of death certificates must be changed in the light of the Shipman case, the leader of Britain's doctors has said.

The Shipman murders
Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, also told the BBC that the medical profession had to act fast to restore public confidence.

He said work to develop a new system for monitoring standards in general practice had to be speeded up, and run alongside new measures to assess doctors' fitness to practice at regular intervals.

There has to be that element of trust between patient and doctor, and I do believe that patients will come to see this for the unique case it is
Dr Ian Bogle, council chairman, British Medical Association
Dr Bogle said: "Doing nothing is not an option. We do support an inquiry.

"Death certification must be part of the inquiry, as must the handling of drugs and the ability to get drugs in the way that Shipman did.

"(Death certification) has to be one of the main things that is looked at in the inquiry, and I am quite sure it should be changed."

Dr Bogle called for those dealing with deaths to be given adequate computer technology to allow them to spot unusual trends as they happen.

He said: "Here we are, with technology in most parts of our lives, but there isn't the ability to actually select out trends with the sort of technology we should have.

"It is a terrible day for humanity. Shipman was the one that was guilty, not British doctors, but it is a terrible thing for us all - tragic.

"There has to be that element of trust between patient and doctor, and I do believe that patients will come to see this for the unique case it is."

GMC now more powerful

New legislation has given the General Medical Council the power to act more decisively on the kind of information that it had on Shipman in the 1970s, and meant that a repeat of the case was less likely, he said.

There needs to be a much closer look at the role of the GMC
David Hinchliffe, chairman, Health Select Committee
But Labour MP David Hinchliffe, the chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, said he was not so confident that the GMC was capable of acting in time to prevent future tragedies.

He told Today: "There needs to be a much closer look at the role of the GMC.

"I am not so convinced that the situation that happened in the 1970s could not be repeated. The Select Committee has put a report in to Government where we suggested the role of the GMC needs to be looked at very carefully. "That is one area that I think is fundamental to improvements."

Solo GPs

Dr John Chisholm, the chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, dismissed calls for doctors to be barred from working in one man practices.

He said: "Single-handed GPs are greatly valued by their patients for the continuity of care and the personal care that they deliver, and I believe that single-handed practice is a choice that patients should continue to have because Shipman was an evil one-off.

"But all doctors should be more accountable and open to scrutiny than they are at the moment."

The BMA has called for a number of changes. They include:

  • A better definition of the categories of death which the coroner is required to investigate
  • A statutory obligation on doctors to notify such deaths directly to the coroner
  • A similar statutory obligation on nurses, undertakers and others involved in the disposal of the dead to notify any concerns to the coroner
  • Changes to the system for registering deaths and recording cremations, which would allow better collection of data and monitoring of events that may cause concern
  • Larger regional coroners' offices, controlled by coroners qualified in both medicine and law
  • Improvements in education on forensic medicine at undergraduate and post graduate level for all doctors

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  UK
Shipman murder inquiry
31 Jan 00 |  UK
Shipman guilty of 15 murders
31 Jan 00 |  Health
Doctor suspended over Shipman case
31 Jan 00 |  Health
GMC: Public confidence is damaged

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