Parliament: Health: Bill will prevent doctors escaping complaints from patients by retiring

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The Independent Online
NEW POWERS to stop family doctors escaping complaints by retiring early are to be introduced in a backbench Bill.

Geoffrey Johnson Smith, the Tory MP for Wealdon, will take up a Bill promoted by the Consumers Association to allow patients to pursue their complaints against family doctors after the GPs retire.

The health ombudsman called for the measure to plug a legal loophole that allowed GPs to escape complaints by taking early retirement from the NHS, without being banned from private practice.

Mr Johnson Smith's Bill is almost certain to become law because he was so well-placed in a ballot of MPs for the right to introduce private member's legislation.

Ann Winterton, the Tory MP for Congleton who came top in the ballot, is under pressure from Pro-Life campaigners to introduce a Bill to toughen up the laws against euthanasia.

Mrs Winterton, who is chair of the all-party Pro-Life group of MPs, will announce her decision on Thursday.

The proposed Bill, which follows claims of elderly patients being starved to death in hospital beds by staff, would make it illegal to withdraw treatment with the intention of killing the patient.

Phyllis Bowman, campaign director of the group Right to Life which has drawn up the Bill, said: "We know that Ann is seriously thinking about that and we are very hopeful."

She is also being urged to take up a bill tightening the law on abortion to make it illegal to carry out late abortions on handicapped foetuses.

Tom Pendry, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, who was second in the ballot, is believed to be backing away from a bill to ban foxhunting, leaving Ken Livingstone the chance to become the champion of Labour's anti-hunting lobby.

Frank Dobson would be infuriated if Labour MPs allowed Mr Livingstone - his arch rival to become Labour's candidatefor London mayor, who came eighth in the ballot - unrivalled free publicity in the New Year by taking up the foxhunting issue.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Shadow Cabinet spokesman for defence, who drew sixth place, is seeking to introduce a bill to attack the Government's use of spin doctors at the taxpayers' expense. Mr Duncan Smith wants to limit the number of special advisers and to "cut back Government".