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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Why I'm a victim of Shipman era

On the anniversary of the Shipman Inquiry's final report a GP tells how its aftermath threatens his career and doctors warn the GMC it must fight harder to protect its role

By Joanna Clarke-Jones

Dr Paul Davis will enter 2006 with the threat hanging over him that it could be his last as a GP.

The reason dates back two years, to a night he gave a chronically ill elderly patient two doses of diamorphine. The patient died the following morning.

Dr Davis heard nothing more about the incident for almost a year. Then in October 2004 he was arrested on suspicion of murder after police received an allegation against him.

A harrowing nine weeks later, the case was dropped. Dr Davis was never charged. The GMC placed no restrictions on his practice. As 2005 began, he thought his ordeal was over.

'Then months later I receive this letter from the GMC saying they have not completed their investigation,' Dr Davis said.

The GMC has now judged that he must face a fitness to practise panel. This will take place in July at the earliest, more than two-and-a-half years after the patient died.

The decision has left Dr Davis bemused and upset. But he has no doubt about the reason for his plight. He said: 'I think I am a victim of the Shipman era.'

He also cannot hide his dismay at the way the GMC has acted and at the length of time the process is taking.

Dr Davis said: 'It is an over-zealous approach when you consider what I actually did ­ gave a patient two doses of diamorphine, within acceptable levels. The GMC should have one crack at the nut and if they feel it should go further they should make a decision at the time.'

He added: 'It's always at the back of one's mind ­ the outcome may be that they stop me from working. It's very upsetting that it's been dragging on for so long. It takes one's self-

esteem and self-worth away.'

Dr Davis, who was singlehanded at the time he was arrested, has continued to practise at his rural surgery in Castle Hedingham, Essex.

But he has taken on a locum and changed the way he works. He won't visit seriously ill elderly patients without a witness or specialist advice.

Dr Davis said: 'I am very reluctant to prescribe opiates and rarely do it now, which may be to the detriment of patients. I'm more cautious and record everything meticulously. Singlehanded GPs are incredibly exposed. I discuss everything with the locum to protect myself from this vulnerability.'

The GMC said it was normal practice to request information from police at the end of an investigation to establish if a doctor's fitness to practise was impaired.

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