Checking up

NEARLY four decades after Harold Shipman, Britain’s most infamous GP, began killing patients in his care, the consequences of his murderous activities still reverberate around the National Health Service.

This is illustrated by today’s concerns that the General Medical Council has failed to implement a fair and robust system to monitor all doctors on a regular basis, and allay the public’s concerns about the competence of their family doctor.

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It must be remembered that Shipman, whose killing spree began in Yorkshire, was an exception – most GPs are, thankfully, still regarded as pillars of their community. It is also debatable whether any checks, however detailed, could have stopped him from inflicting so much harm on his helpless patients.

Nevertheless, in light of medical advances and, also, the changing role of GPs with regard to the coalition’s intended financial reforms, it is right that regular checks are undertaken to ensure standards are maintained at all times.

If the GMC cannot fulfil this basic remit, then the Department of Health should not hesitate to take the lead.