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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 15:12 GMT
Monitoring patient treatments
Harold Shipman
More or Less
Monday, 4 December, 2006
BBC Radio 4, 1630 GMT

In the shadow of Harold Shipman, the serial killing GP, BBC Radio 4's More or Less reported on those other doctors whose numbers may give cause for concern.

Presenter Andrew Dilnot asked if it is possible to monitor, statistically, how well all GPs are treating their patients, or not.

If we try, could it simply cause resentment without being effective at stopping murder?

A system of monitoring general practice mortality was recommended by the public inquiry into the Shipman case chaired by Dame Janet Smith, which issued its final report early last year.

She said it could be done, it should be done, and the public, including families of Shipman's victims, would not accept arguments that it could not.

It sounds as if it ought to be straightforward. In fact, it is extremely difficult.

For two other GPs described in the programme who found themselves sat in a room and asked to justify their mortality figures, the investigation was tense and anxious.

So, with the government still to decide whether to set up a monitoring system, can it work to detect murder?

Or is it worth doing for other reasons?

We spoke at length to one of the doctors who has investigated the figures for GPs with high patient mortality - in some cases higher than Shipman's - but were eventually found to have perfectly good explanations.

Age perceptions

Also in this week's programme, a meditation on age. Is it the mushiest number around?

Odometer accuracy

Every car has one to measure distance travelled, but just how accurate are odometers supposed to be?

The answer: we do not know because there is no EU regulation governing odometers - plenty about speedometers - but not about measuring mileage.

And we also cannot explain why we get such variation from one odometer to another.

And some exceedingly big numbers: those generated for a new generation for product barcodes and for the next generation of internet addresses.

How many could we possibly need? You might be surprised.

Presenter: Andrew Dilnot
Producer: Michael Blastland

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday, 4 December, 2006 at 1630 GMT.


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SEE ALSO
Looking for the new Shipmans
05 Dec 06 |  Health
Q&A: Shipman Inquiry
09 Dec 04 |  Health

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