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At the heart of general practice since 1960

PCTs admit policies to phase out singlehanders

PCTs have admitted they

are deliberately phasing out singlehanded practices.

A survey of 15 trusts by the Shipman Inquiry found six were operating a policy to discourage singlehanded practices and were not replacing lone GPs who left or retired. The results were released as the inquiry's third stage opened with an investigation into whether Shipman's singlehanded status made it easier for him remain undetected.

The PCTs that admitted they had an anti-singlehander policy were Leicester City West, South West Dorset, South Norfolk, West Wiltshire, Newcastle and Westminster.

Newcastle PCT said it had had 'significant performance issues' with singlehanders.

Dr Michael Taylor, chair of the Small Practices Association, told the inquiry many lone GPs perceived PCTs to be 'hostile'.

Dr Taylor, a GP in Heywood, Lancashire, also denied Shipman's singlehanded status had enabled him to avoid detection. He added the new contract will make it harder to monitor GPs' mortality rates as patients will be registered with a practice.

The inquiry has previously heard that analysis of individual GPs' death rates could have sounded the alarm about Shipman in 1997.

Dr Taylor said singlehanders were 'naked to observation'. He added: 'An argument could be made that we should all be singlehanders with regards to death certification.'

Dr Paul Aylin, a researcher at Imperial College, London, who analysed GP mortality rates for the inquiry, agreed pooled lists would 'dilute' the data.

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