Medical negligence experts
Ann Alexander of law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represents the families of the victims of serial killer Harold Shipman, gave a cautious welcome to today's report published by Sir Liam Donaldson the Chief Medical Officer entitled 'Good doctors, safer patients'. The major review by Sir Liam into medical regulation published today was commissioned by the then Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, following the publication of the fifth report of the Shipman Inquiry, chaired by Dame Janet Smith.
Ann Alexander said "This report is a considered, but equally, a radical reform proposal." However she added "Whilst these proposals go a long way towards adopting many of the recommendations in Dame Janet Smith's report there are still important gaps, notably in the area of death certification which has still not been addressed by this Government but which requires urgent attention."
The families of Shipman's victims have waited a long time to see the recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry get to this stage, we hope that there is no further delay to these crucial proposals to safeguard patients lives and safety."
Miss Alexander, a Clinical Negligence practitioner for over 25 years said "I am pleased that Sir Liam has used this opportunity to look beyond general practice into the whole NHS to ensure systems implemented will protect patients from unacceptable medical practices."
Miss Alexander continued "This is the first formal major review of medical regulation in this country for over 30 years, although the Government have been provided with literally hundreds of recommendations following the inquiries into Shipman, Neale, Ayling, Kerr and Haslam."
Miss Alexander said "Unlike other high risk industries such as Aviation, there is no formal assessment of a doctor's knowledge, competence, clinical skills or performance. Dame Janet Smith in her report was highly critical of the lack of proper regulation within the medical profession and we are pleased that Sir Liam clearly supports her conclusions."
"The General Medical Council (GMC) can no longer maintain its role as complaint recipient, processor, investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. The regulation of health professionals cannot be 'under one roof' and needs to be less reminiscent of an old boys club. Major changes to the structure, functions and governance of the GMC, as outlined in this report, to make it more transparent and in the best interests of patients not doctors are to be applauded."
The report will now be subject to a period of 4 months consultation as ministers consider Sir Liam's proposals.
Ann Alexander concluded "Sir Liam's report has been a long time in coming. Whilst I accept that a short period of consultation is appropriate it is now more than six years since Shipman was convicted and these proposals must be implemented speedily and without further delay."
"The families of Shipman's victims deserve such a thorough reform to a system that failed them. We must maintain this momentum for change to safeguard not only our lives, but also the reputation of the NHS both in this country and throughout the world."