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GPs face visit to all care home deaths

GPs will have to examine the bodies of nursing home residents for signs of abuse before issuing death certificates under new Government plans.

Minister for community at the Department of Health Steven Ladyman told Pulse he had asked officials to look at GMC guidance on death certification to see if it was 'rigorous enough'.

The decision comes after a committee of MPs said its report on elder abuse due this month was likely to recommend an obligation for GPs to check around 92,000 nursing home residents who die each year.

In his evidence to the select committee inquiry, Mr Ladyman said he was surprised and concerned that GPs did not have to examine the bodies.

GPs are required to undertake an examination before

issuing cremation certificates but not for medical death certificates if the patient's death is expected.

Health select committee member Paul Burstow said GPs should 'be there on behalf of the patient when they're dead or alive'.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: 'GPs ought to be a little less perfunctory than signing the certificate without seeing the body.'

But GPs said they were not qualified to check for signs of abuse and there was no need to change existing laws.

GPC deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'We are not pathologists, we are not qualified to say whether a bruise on an elderly person is abuse or something else.'

Dr Fay Wilson, member of the GPC statutes and regulations committee, said GPs 'had enough problems dealing with people who were alive'.

Dr Wilson said a protocol in the West Midlands she helped set up had highlighted the need for a 'death service' team to carry out the administration, examine the body and notify police if the death was suspicious.

'It would fit in with the depersonalisation of GMS services in the new contract,' she said.

Mr Ladyman added: 'I am genuinely interested in what GPs think of this and if they have got an opinion they should let me know.'

By Susan McNulty

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