Improving patient safety, including better protection for whistle-blowers who speak out on behalf of patients, is an issue I have been campaigning for since I was first elected.
I have been working with the General Medical Council over their frustrations in relation to the disciplinary procedures for doctors as part of that campaign.
I am keen to get this addressed following the death of Nikki Sams, whose case I have raised with the General Medical Council in the past.
Nikki was just twenty-six when she died of cervical cancer in 2007, which her GP had not diagnosed after failing to spot the symptoms eight times.
He escaped disciplinary action by retiring, despite having been investigated. I raised this issue in Parliament recently when I asked for a statement on ‘when the General Medical Council will get the powers it needs to more effectively hold doctors to account’, which requires Parliament to pass legislation to change the Cohen judgement set by the courts. This sets the bar too high for removing a doctor’s ‘fitness to practice’ certificate. In short, doctors can say they will get some remedial training on the area where they failed their patient and as a result escape accountability for gross errors.
The GMC also need the power to enable it to appeal lenient disciplinary sentences, just as doctors themselves can appeal disciplinary sentences they regard as too harsh. The current appeal system is one sided in favour of doctors and not patients and their families.
Andrew Lansley, Leader of the House of Commons, has promised to discuss this important point with the Department of Health to see what progress has been made and when they will be better able to answer my precise questions.
Locally I am lobbying to make services more accessible for the community, and I have met with key representatives from Public Health, NHS England and the local Clinical Commissioning Group over the past few weeks to ensure patients in Fenland are receiving the best possible health services. I am also looking to see what services can be provided closer to home so patients can benefit from reduced travelling times, which will also cut the cost of travel and make it easier for family and friends to support patient recovery.
I will shortly be launching a special campaign to make health care more local, to which I hope the community will add their voices, to ensure we are getting the service we deserve.