GPs are to be required to report all ‘unexpected' deaths of patients who have received recent treatment to the Care Quality Commission, in a move designed to prevent a future Shipman going undetected.
CQC officials will respond to reports by interviewing GPs and inspecting practices, particularly where more than one death is reported over a short space of time.
The new requirement – published last week in a list of new requirements on the Department of Health's website – prompted immediate criticism from the GPC, which said it would be ‘burdensome' on GPs and duplicate information already reported to the Coroner.
The move also hands the CQC a long-term role in regulating GPs, on top of its job registering practices, which was initially supposed to be a one-off.
GPs will have to notify the CQC where death occurs within 14 days of the practice providing care, ‘where the death may have resulted from regulated activity, and cannot be attributed to the expected course of the service user's illness'.
The Department of Health said the requirements were ‘significantly' different from those of cases reported to the Coroner, where cause of death is unknown or the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the certificate either after death or in the 14 days before.
But GPs attacked the change as unnecessary red tape.
Dr Jane Lothian, secretary of Northumberland LMCs and a GP in Ashington, said: ‘What on earth are they going to do with that information? There's already been years of work to sort out Shipman - revalidation, the coroner's system being tightened.'
Dr John Canning, a member of the BMA's forensic medicine committee and a GP in Middlesborough, said: ‘Reporting all unexpected deaths in general practice will inundate the CQC, given the average patient visits the surgery five or six times a year. It is supposed to reduce bureaucracy, but this is doing just the opposite.'
The DH insisted similar arrangements already applied to other NHS bodies: ‘We believe the requirement to notify the CQC of unexpected deaths will provide the regulator with information that will provide an insight into quality of care.'
A CQC spokesperson said: ‘Our role is to regulate the quality and safety of providers and a death in these circumstances is an indication there may be a problem.
‘It won't necessarily mean an inspection, although an inspector may contact the surgery. If we received a number from the same practice we might need to do an inspection.'