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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 12:19 GMT
GMC 'slated' over Shipman case
Shipman hung himself in his prison cell in January
A leaked letter from the inquiry into the serial killer Harold Shipman suggests that the General Medical Council is facing heavy criticism.

The doctors' watchdog is accused of lacking objectivity and failing to protect patients, in the lawyer's letter leaked to health journal Pulse.

The Shipman Inquiry's findings into how the GP was able to murder at least 215 patients are not due till this summer.

The GMC attacked the leak and said it had already introduced major reforms.

In the document, the GMC is criticised over its investigations, administration, attitude, policies and practices.

I don't think today the GMC in any sense deserves to be labelled as 'doctors looking after doctors'
Finlay Scott
General Medical Council

Written by solicitor Henry Palin to the GMC, the letter accuses the council of being self-serving, biased in favour of doctors, failing to protect patients, overly secretive and acting through "expediency rather than principle".

The GMC said it was "another matter" whether the points would be raised in the inquiry's final findings and attacked the magazine for attempting "to interfere with the processes of the Shipman Inquiry".

'Failures'

A spokeswoman said the council was implementing a massive reform programme.

Chief executive Finlay Scott said the council was about "professionally-led regulation in partnership with the public".

He added that 14 of the 35 members of the council's governing body were lay people.

"I don't think today the GMC in any sense deserves to be labelled as 'doctors looking after doctors'," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said the council's response would be published on the inquiry's website soon.

The letter was sent to the council in late December last year to give the council a chance to respond before inquiry chair Dame Janet Smith began drafting her final report.

'Prejudices'

It blames the GMC for its "failure to lay down clear policies so as to properly reflect its claimed objective of protecting patients".

The inquiry argues that GMC decision makers may be said to "lack objectivity" and that their "prejudices favoured the doctor rather than the complainant".

Shipman hanged himself in his cell last month after being convicted in January 2000 of murdering 15 patients. The inquiry has found he murdered at least 215.

A GMC spokeswoman said: "We deplore the attempt to interfere with the processes of the Shipman Inquiry that the leaking of this letter from the inquiry to the GMC represents."

"The GMC has acknowledged deficiencies in our past procedures and, after successfully lobbying for the necessary changes in the law, we are currently implementing the biggest reform programme in the history of medical regulation."




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