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A national system to monitor practice mortality rates could win the confidence of GPs, as long as it is not used to search for the next Harold Shipman, a study has concluded.

The study of mortality rates at 114 practices in Northern Ireland found differences could be explained by variations in the demographics and deprivation affecting practices. The research, published in the BJGP (September), was prompted by the demands for routine monitoring of general practice death rates in the wake of Shipman.

Author Dr Tom Marshall, senior lecturer at the department of public health and epidemiology at the University of Birmingham, said practices had been involved in checking the mortality data for errors and explaining variations.

He said any national system would require the same level of co-operation from GPs

and warned this would not happen if the purpose was solely to identify another Shipman because GPs were wary of the data being used against them.

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