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Vanessa Bourne, Patients' Association
'We need an inspectorate to protect patients'
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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
'Patients still not protected'
Vaness Bourne
The Patient's Association says few changes have been made
The inquiry report into the Rodney Ledward case highlights the fact that patients are still not protected against rogue doctors, claims a pressure group.

The Patients' Association says the claim that consultants were regarded as "gods" and no-one dared raise concerns is no surprise.

It is about time something was done to change the system

Vanessa Bourne, Patients' Association
Vanessa Bourne, chairman of the association, said: "I hope that somebody will finally get a grip of the pathetic way in which patients are not protected at the moment.

"We do more to protect people against dodgy market traders at the moment than we do to protect patients against people like this."

Ms Bourne said health professionals felt too intimated to speak out when they suspected colleagues of incompetence.

She added: "This report is very hard-hitting and I wish it well. I wish politicians would take due notice of it.

"It is the latest in a very long series of reports like it and it is about time something was done to change the system."

She said an independent inspectorate was needed to ensure patients' complaints were properly dealt with.

'I haven't worked with a god'

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association's council, said: "The god-like feature has gone out of medicine these last 30 or 40 years. I've worked for 38 years in the health service.

"I haven't worked with a god in hospitals or in general practice."

Dr Bogle said whistle blowing in the NHS was essential and doctors should remember that the GMC could take action against a doctor who failed to come up to standard.

He said, referring to the Ledward case: "Quite a lot of the doctors referred to in the report had attempted to blow a whistle but the management didn't hear it or didn't act on it."

The NHS Confederation, which represents health authorities and trusts, said: "It is a scandal that situations like this have occurred and have dragged on for so long - it must be made easier to nip them in the bud as soon as possible."

But the confederation said it has been very difficult to tackle issues of poor medical performance among consultants as the burden of proof was higher than for other staff and the mechanisms for it were "slow, cumbersome and often unsuccessful".

Dr Ian Bogle
Dr Ian Bogle: 'The god-like feature has gone'
Professor Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, admitted that health professionals working in the NHS had found it difficult to challenge colleagues in the past - but he claimed recent reforms had made it easier.

He said proposals for regular checks on the competency of doctors would also help.

He said: "It was an absolutely deplorable state of affairs. Unfortunately, there were problems that were known about informally in medical channels for many years but nobody faced up to the problems."

He admitted: "In the past we have not dealt firmly enough with the small minority that cause the sort of devastation we have seen in this report.

"We have got to see the sort of NHS where poor practice like this can never take root again."

Health minister John Denham added: "Nobody was prepared to take responsibility for taking action. Nobody felt it was their job."

Changes introduced by the government meant chief executives of health organisations now clearly knew they were responsible, he said.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "We need to guarantee all patients, wherever they receive their healthcare, a minimum standard of care.

"The problem with this government is that they refuse to regulate the private sector in the same way as the NHS because they wish to make a barrier between the NHS and private sectors."

Helen Caulfield, legal policy adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Recent cases of serious medical error underline the need to take a radical look at the whole regulatory framework for health professionals."

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Health
Inquiry condemns NHS 'gods'
30 Sep 98 | Health
Gynaecologist banned
01 Jun 00 | Health
'I nearly died twice'
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