Warning on danger GPs' watchdog

Dangerous doctors such as Harold Shipman could escape detection because a new screening body will not be powerful enough to weed them out, GPs' leaders have warned.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn is due to unveil details of his National Clinical Assessment Authority today.

It will be a rapid-reaction unit whose role will be to look swiftly into complaints about doctors from patients and colleagues and to decide whether they should be investigated more closely.

The British Medical Association said, however, that the authority would not necessarily detect another Harold Shipman.

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GPs' committee, called for further measures, including better monitoring of both death certificates and the use of controlled drugs.

The BMA said this would create a more effective 'early warning system' against rogue doctors.

Tony Blair said that the authority, coupled with a system of annual appraisals for doctors, would give 'the best possible chance' of ensuring there was no repeat of the Shipman case.

An official report last week showed Shipman may have killed as many as 300 patients during his 24-year career.

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