GPs to check dead nursing home residents for abuse

MPs are set to demand that GPs check the bodies of nursing home
residents when they die for signs of abuse or neglect,
writes Derren Hayes.

The Health Select Committee will call for a tightening of the
law on the procedures for GPs issuing death certificates after
hearing evidence at the recent inquiry into elder abuse, which had
echoes of the Harold Shipman case.

Senior members of the committee told Community Care they were
appalled to discover that GPs are not required to see the body of
someone who has died in a nursing home before issuing a death

In the Shipman case, the former GP and mass-murderer was able to
avoid detection after killing patients partly because he was in
sole charge of issuing the death certificates.

Although checks are being introduced to tackle this, the
committee will highlight the specific need for greater checks in
care homes because of the particularly vulnerable nature of many of
the residents in these settings.

One senior member of the committee said: “The law is being
tightened in the wake of the Shipman case, but it needs to be
looked at in this particular instance to make sure that no
loopholes are left open.”

The report is not due to be published until late March, but
committee member and Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said he would
be “very surprised” if the change wasn’t included
as a recommendation.

During the inquiry, committee chairperson David Hinchliffe said:
“In some instances, where people have been expected to die,
questions have been raised as to whether the death actually related
to the longer term problem or to some incident that occurred prior
to the death.”

Community care minister Stephen Ladyman also admitted during his
evidence to the inquiry that he was “a bit surprised and
concerned” at the current guidance.

GP organisations remain sceptical about the proposed change as
they believe it is very difficult to say categorically whether
marks on a dead person’s body have been caused by abuse.


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