MPs to act on hospital deaths

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RELATIVES OF people who die unexpectedly in hospital should have a legal right to demand an inquiry by independent experts, an influential committee of MPs is expected to recommend this week, writes Jo Dillon.

The report, out on Wednesday, comes in the wake of recent tragic cases, including accusations against three doctors accused of serious professional misconduct after 29 babies died at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee are understood to have concluded, after a wide-ranging inquiry, that the public has little confidence that the NHS will properly investigate complaints against doctors.

Their report is expected to call for independent tribunals to be set up to investigate unexpected deaths in hospitals with full clinical reports being made available to families.

The MPs are expected to put pressure on Health Secretary Alan Milburn to bring an end to the current situation where people are forced to sue health authorities in order to find answers or hear the findings of tribunals headed by directors of the trust in question.

In evidence to the committee, former Health Secretary Frank Dobson is understood to have described the situation as a "shambles". The MPs' work has already won the praise of Labour MP Frank Cook who recently put down an early day motion complimenting them on their "diligence" in putting together the forthcoming report on Adverse Clinical Incidents.

Mr Cook is also calling for a "reliable international means of checking medical qualification and performance records" so that doctors who have been struck off cannot go abroad for a time only to return to work in an NHS hospital in this country.

"Doctors are burying their mistakes not only in graves but in terms of records," he said. "It is disgraceful."