MPs are set to demand that GPs check the bodies of nursing home
residents when they die for signs of abuse or neglect.
The House of Commons 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 were not required to see the
body of someone who had died in a nursing home before issuing a
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 the end of this month,
but committee member and Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said he
would be “very surprised” if the change was not included as a
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 difficult to say with certainty whether marks on a
dead person’s body have been caused by abuse.