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BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford
"Doctors are concerned about the delays"
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Mr Barry Jackson
"At the moment there is uncertainty"
 real 28k

BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford
"Medical authorities had agreed on systems to monitor doctors"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 09:15 GMT
Doubt over doctor checks

Surgery New monitoring checks on doctors are proposed

Proposed changes to the way doctors are monitored in the wake of the Harold Shipman trial could take too long to bring in, leading medics have warned.

Wide-reaching changes in practice were proposed after the GP from Hyde, Greater Manchester, was found guilty of murdering 15 elderly patients.

The case exposed loopholes in the rules governing how doctors are disciplined and struck off and prompted calls for a radical review of the way in which doctors are regulated.

But the President of the Royal College of Surgeons Barry Jackson has warned the changes could take years to implement.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has asked government ministers for the power to suspend doctors while they are under investigation.

Following several healthcare scandals such as the Bristol heart babies case, the GMC also wants to set up a process of revalidation.

Under the proposals doctors would have regular checks before being able to continue treating patients.

Other bodies have also called for reform.

The government has set up a system called clinical governance which involves doctors checking each other's performance.

The new Commission for Health Improvement is developing a role as an inspectorate while the Royal Colleges are looking at ways of assessing specialists.

But Mr Jackson told the BBC this was creating the potential for confusion and duplication.

He is also concerned that much of the data needed to judge doctors is not available.

He said: "There is uncertainty at the moment as to how the GMC is going to put this method into action."

Power to suspend

Mr Barry Jackson Mr Barry Jackson is worried about progress
The GMC has called on the government to change rules which meant it had no powers to suspend Shipman while police were involved.

At present, doctors who are being investigated by police or face investigation about their professional performance cannot be given an interim suspension from the medical register while an inquiry is carried out.

Suspension would be used where it is "necessary in the public interest or in the doctor's own interest", the GMC decided.

The government is to carry out an independent inquiry into how the GP, who has now been struck off, was able to carry out the murders without routine checks picking him up.

In the aftermath of the Shipman trial, Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced that deaths in surgeries or serious incidents would have to be reported to health bodies.

In reference to the Hyde GP's conviction on drugs charges in the 1970s, Mr Milburn also said that doctors would be made to disclose criminal convictions.

A public inquiry is also underway into the high death rates among infant heart patients at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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See also:
10 Feb 99 |  Health
Failing doctors 'will be banned'
01 Feb 99 |  Health
Tough sanctions proposed for 'failing doctors'
05 Jan 00 |  Health
Standards for GPs unveiled
12 Nov 99 |  Health
Extra powers to tackle bad doctors
26 May 99 |  Health
No government cash for competence checks

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