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Negligence database is ‘gossip’s charter’, warns MDU

By Gareth Iacobucci

Government plans to collect details of negligence claims against GPs on a national database are a ‘gossip's charter' that could see unsubstantiated allegations shared without giving GPs the opportunity to challenge them, the Medical Defence Union has warned.

If pushed through, the regulations, currently in draft form, would place a ‘duty of cooperation' on employers to pass on information in their possession where a GP or a healthcare worker's conduct suggests a possible risk to patient safety.

The proposals could see potentially sensitive data collected, stored and shared from a range of sources, including formal or informal concerns raised by patients or colleagues and clinical negligence claims.

In its response to a Government consultation on the draft regulations, the MDU warned the plans were ‘considerably flawed', and would place GPs under suspicion from ‘soft data'.

Dr Hugh Stewart, the MDU's head of case decisions said: ‘These regulations are considerably flawed and represent little more than a gossip's charter.'

‘We have never been persuaded that passing on so-called soft information about doctors in the way proposed would add anything to the existing measures in place to protect patient safety.'

‘We believe this policy could considerably undermine the confidence of and in doctors and healthcare workers for no good reason.'

‘These regulations give relevant officers the power to pass on potentially damaging information about a doctor to other organisations and there is no appeals process if, for example, the doctor in question thinks there is a conflict of interest or unfair bias or just that the information is wrong.'

Dr Stewart urged the DH to rethink and redraft its plans to ensure there is no ‘unfair prejudice against doctors'.

He added: ‘These draft regulations are unnecessary and will lead to the setting up of yet another procedure with far greater additional expense for the NHS, including substantial administrative and legal costs, than is envisaged.'

The DH is currently consulting on new regulations which medico-legal experts fear would be a 'gossip's charter' The DH is currently consulting on new regulations which medico-legal experts fear would be a 'gossip's charter'