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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 12:29 GMT
North West: Shipman inquiry
Jim Clarke
Politics Show North West

Dame Janet Smith
Some regarded him as strange, sinister, odd ...
Dame Janet Smith

After four years, six reports, and hundreds of witnesses we know the full horrifying saga. Harold Shipman probably murdered 250 people. Dame Janet Smith said that the killing began almost as soon as he qualified as a doctor.

The revelation of Shipman's murders at Pontefract Hospital, in Yorkshire, bring to an end Dame Janet Smith's long running inquiry. But what now?

Once the latest set of Shipman headlines fade away what happens?

Dame Janet Smith's widely praised inquiry was a forensic dissection of the relationship between, GPs, their patients and the authorities.

It was not a pretty sight.

Dame Janet uncovered major flaws in the systems that govern death registration, the prescription of drugs and the monitoring of doctors.

Government review

Harold Shipman
Killing began almost as soon as Shipman qualified?

Her recommendations were numerous.

She wants coroners to be better trained and highlighted the nedd for better controls on the handling of "Class A" drugs by doctors and pharmacists.

Dame Janet recommends fundamental changes in the way that doctors are monitored and disciplined.

The General Medical Council (GMC), she said, was an organisation designed to look after the interests of doctors, not patients.

It needs root and branch reform. But will it happen?

Health Secretary John Reid has set up a review to look at Dame Janet's recommendations.

There are many who fear that the government, after talking tough, will act soft when it comes to implementing the reforms Dame Janet called for.

GMC heal thyself?

Anne Alexander who represented many of the families of Shipman's victims said:

"The one positive thing that the families can take away from the trauma of Shipman is the knowledge that this could never happen again.

"If the government soft pedals on Dame Janet's recommendations it will be a huge disappointment to the relatives of his victims."

"The GMC says it can reform itself but I am not convinced by that", she said.

"They have made great play of putting new lay members on the committee, but when you look at the lay members, most of them are from a health service background.

"It is still keeping it in the family".

Opposing view

It is unsurprisingly that some doctors have a different view of the Smith inquiry.

Dr Rob Barnett, the British Medical Association (BMA) representative for the North West, said he felt that while the Smith inquiry had been valuable in some ways, some of the recommendations go too far.

"We do not want to be landed with some hugely bureaucratic system that means that doctors spend half their lives monitoring other doctors", he said.

Politics Show

READ THE FINAL REPORT
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Jim Hancock speaks to the BMA, to the coroners involved and to solicitors who represented the families.

And Jim speaks, live, to health minister Lord Warner, the man in charge of examining and implementing the Smith inquiry recommendations.

So join Jim Hancock for all this and a round up of the weeks political events on Sunday lunchtime between 12.30 and 13.30 on BBC1.

Have your say

Let us know what you think. That is the Politics Show, Sunday, 30 January, 2005 at 12.30pm.

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SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Shipman murders
31 Aug 04 |  Manchester


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