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Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twelfth Report


First Memorandum by the Department of Health


  1. The Regulations are being laid on 3rd February 2000 and are to come into force on 4th February 2000. The Department regrets that it is thus necessary to break the "21-day rule". The reasons for this are as follows:

  2. The Regulations amend existing secondary legislation to require a Health Authority to remove from its medical list any doctor convicted of murder or convicted of some other offence and sentenced to at least six months imprisonment. They also require a doctor applying to a Health Authority for nomination or approval for a practice vacancy to make declarations regarding previous criminal convictions or disciplinary proceedings.

  3. The Department has delayed making these regulations until the conclusion of the trial of Dr Harold Shipman on 15 counts of murder. The allegations against Dr Shipman raised issues which needed to be addressed in the regulations but these were delayed to avoid the risk of any consequent publicity prejudicing the conduct of the trial. Nevertheless, the policy is to ensure that there is swift action to address the two issues covered by the amendments.

  4. The publicity surrounding Dr Shipman's activities and the verdict is such that there could be loss of public confidence in the National Health Service should a Health Authority's current inability to remove a GP from its medical list as the GP responsible for the patients registered with him on his conviction for serious offences, remain. Moreover, there would be public disquiet at the use of NHS resources if a doctor convicted of serious criminal offences was able to continue to draw allowances from the NHS for any appreciable period of time.

  5. The provisions regarding declarations are seen as a further necessary safeguard against the recruitment of inappropriate persons on medical lists and their swift introduction is required to prevent any loss of confidence in the provision of general practitioner medical services. The Department regrets that, due to pressures of time, the Regulations are being laid in typescript. We shall endeavour to have a printed version in time for the Committee's consideration of the Regulations.

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