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Complaints system reform 'is not about catching another Shipman'

GPs have condemned the Consumers Association after it claimed that planned reforms to the NHS complaints procedure 'would not stop another Shipman'.

The association said in its evidence to the Shipman Inquiry that Government plans for 'incremental' changes to the complaints system would not go far enough.

It called for a single independent body to replace the GMC and handle all complaints and regulation of NHS and private doctors. Patients believed the GMC was 'weighted in favour of doctors', the association said.

Patients should also have

an 'automatic right' to demand an independent review.

The association concluded 'a much more rigorous approach to how complaints about GPs are monitored and more independent, transparent and accessible mechanisms for patient redress is needed'.

The GPC and medical defence bodies said the complaints system was not

designed to detect serial killers.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'The Shipman Inquiry is about a psychopathic murderer who is now dead. The complaints system is about whether the patient is satisfied with the care they got from their GP.'

The Government's proposals to double the length of time in which complaints can be made and allow patients to complain directly to PCOs were likely to make the system 'worse, not better', he added.

Dr Stephanie Bown, head of medical services in London at the Medical Protection Society, added: 'We should not be looking at the complaints system as a means of identifying serial killers.'

Dr Hugh Stewart, a medicolegal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, said the complaints procedure 'on the whole works very well', and 90 per cent of complaints to the defence body about GPs were sorted out at the

local resolution stage.

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