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Shipman could happen again says inquiry chief

A GP would still be able to get away with murdering patients, the former chair of the Harold Shipman inquiry has said.

The death certification system is still ‘totally dependent on the honesty and integrity of a single doctor' Dame Janet Smith said, and so could still allow a ‘dishonest and malevolent' GP to escape detection for murder.

Dame Smith chaired the inquiry into the 215 patients killed by Dr Shipman, a GP in Hyde, Manchester, who went undetected for years by signing away the deaths as natural causes.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Dame Smith said: ‘I really was shocked to find how totally our system of death certification is dependent upon the honesty and integrity of a single doctor.

‘Once you realise that you can have a dishonest doctor and a malevolent doctor, then it is obvious that under our system that doctor can get away with murder', she added.

Dame Janet also criticised the Government's failure to quickly implement changes to the current death certification system in England and Wales.

The Government insists the new Coroners and Justice Bill, which includes plans for two doctors to examine death certificates, will make sure ‘the possibility of something as horrific as Shipman will have very, very little chance of happening again.'

But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said more scrutiny may not be in the patients' best interest.

‘I'm not sure that the ways that doctors are policed by external forces will actually improve everything. It'll just make doctors more defensive, and that is not in patients' interests.'

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