Parliament: MPs condemn family doctors for `neglect'

HEALTH
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The Independent Online
A COMMITTEE of MPs moved to "name and shame" failing family doctors yesterday when they took evidence from two GPs who were investigated following complaints.

After hearing their evidence in public, the MPs condemned the GPs' "unprofessional behaviour" and "neglect of duty".

One of the doctors before the influential Public Administration Select Committee was Dr Cuthbert, practising in the Wolverhampton Health Authority area, who failed to visit a dying patient in June 1996, although her daughter informed him of her deteriorating condition via an out-of-hours telephone messaging service.

The patient's daughter, who made the complaint against Dr Cuthbert, had earlier contacted a hospice asking for a syringe-driver because her mother had become unable to swallow the morphine prescribed for her pain.

However, Dr Cuthbert, who was contacted on his pager with the request to authorise such treatment, thought the hospice could not provide such treatment and he allegedly told the daughter "the family would have to manage somehow over the weekend".

Later that day, the patient's daughter called out a deputising doctor who injected the patient with morphine. The patient died the next morning.

Dr Cuthbert told MPs: "Yes, with hindsight I would have acted very differently and it was neglect and I made a mistake."

Questioned on the relationship with the patient, whom he had treated for 17 years, he admitted he did not get on with the daughter. "Perhaps I treated the message with a pinch of salt because ... she claimed a lot of things her mother could not do which she could. It possibly clouded my judgement."

Dr Cuthbert explained he had thought that hospices only admitted patients with cancer and failed to check on this occasion whether it would also be able to treat his patient.

The hearing is part of an inquiry by MPs into the work and role of the Health Services Ombudsman following the move to extend his remit to consider clinical as well as administrative complaints.

Rhodri Morgan, Labour chairman of the committee, said MPs were moving into "unchartered water" by calling GPs to such a public grilling.

The second GP to give evidence, Dr Deepak Trivedi, agreed he did not follow guidelines when he struck off a mother, her daughter and son from his list after they had been in his treatment for over 10 years.

Dr Trivedi, who practises in the Wigan and Bolton Health Authority, removed the family from his surgery roll following a disagreement in June 1997 between a GP practising alongside Dr Trivedi and the daughter over breast- feeding.

When the practice refused to explain the decision, the mother made a complaint.

While Dr Trivedi accepted his findings, he added during the hearing: "I must say, however, that for GPs to have to give their reason is one- sided because patients, two of whom were rude and verbally offensive in my case, did not have to."

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