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Litigation fear as reports of GP errors become traceable

GP leaders have accused primary care trusts of putting GPs at risk of litigation by expecting them to breach patient confidentiality when they request adverse event reports traceable to practices and patients.

RCGP director of quality Dr Mayur Lakhani complained the move went 'against the whole culture of significant event reporting' created by former Health Secretary Alan Milburn in his vision of a blame-free NHS culture.

The National Patient Safety Agency ­ born out of this

vision ­ aims to increase GP reporting through its own anonymous system.

But Dr Kenny Gibson, former clinical risk manager at Westminster PCT, told a recent clinical risk management conference in London: 'You need to have some form of tracking system for purposes of litigation.'

Westminster PCT, which is running an adverse events reporting pilot, part-funded by the Department of Health, includes dates of birth and gender in its data.

Torbay PCT head of clinical governance Hazel Crook said its system also held data by practice name where given, arguing: 'We'd all be naive if we didn't accept that on some occasions it wouldn't be necessary to follow this up.'

Southampton City PCT aims to make its adverse events reporting scheme patient and practice-specific in the near future. Risk manager Carole Bowden said GPs had volunteered the information anyway.

NHS Alliance national clinical governance lead Dr Graham Archard, a GP in Dorset, said: 'I would be extremely concerned if a PCT identified some information in confidence from a practitioner who they felt could be prosecuted.'

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