GPs could be forced to publish data on patient deaths following Williams review

GPs could have to publish numbers of deaths thought to be due to problems in care, under government plans to extend a 'learning from deaths' policy rolled out to hospitals last year.

Plans to overhaul guidance for GP practices and ambulance trusts follow the publication of the Williams review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare on Monday.

The review, launched by health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt after the GMC struck off Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba earlier this year, will see the GMC stripped of its power to appeal against medical tribunal decisions. Recommendations from the review aim to rebuild doctors' trust in regulation following the hugely damaging Bawa-Garba case.

Following on from the review, Mr Hunt said that GPs and ambulance trusts would be the 'next focus for reviewing deaths to help understand and tackle patient safety issues'.

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A 'learning from deaths' policy published last year - the first national advice of its kind - requires NHS trusts to publish quarterly figures on deaths thought to be due to problems in care and demonstrate what they have learned and improved to prevent such deaths in future.

Hospitals are required to have governance policies that 'include, facilitate and give due focus to the review, investigation and reporting of deaths, including those deaths that are determined more likely than not to have resulted from problems in care'.

They are also expected to enhance skills and training where necessary to support this process, and to have clear policies for engaging with bereaved families. The policy also says the CQC is developing tougher assessments of providers learning from deaths.

Learning from mistakes

The policy document says: 'When mistakes happen, providers working with their partners need to do more to understand the causes. The purpose of reviews and investigations of deaths which problems in care might have contributed to is to learn in order to prevent recurrence. Reviews and investigations are only useful for learning purposes if their findings are shared and acted upon.'

A DHSC statement on Monday released alongside the Williams review said: 'By looking at how to extend this to GPs and ambulance trusts, more parts of the NHS will be made safer by generating learning and enabling local health organisations to learn from one another.'

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