Letters

Nothing changes, it seems.We have a 'Bristol', a 'Ledward' and many more.

We blame the General Medical Council, the NHS managers, the reluctance of health service professionals to speak out and so on.

The time has long gone for dishing out blame. Now is the time to revamp the whole process. It's all so simple.

There is an incident or suspicion of serious malpractice and someone makes a brief assessment.

If it is a real concern, an independent outside agency is called in to investigate - quickly. Those investigating will be able to assess whistleblowers' and witnesses' credibility, as well as understanding the value and admissibility of 'evidence ' .

The disciplinary process should focus from that point on the important issues while disregarding all the petty issues that invariably bring the process to a grinding halt.

If an investigation is independent, no-one with the organisation has anything to fear from intimidation or allegations of a witch hunt. The public can be assured of fairness and professionalism.

Equally important, the innocent will have nothing to fear; the subject of the investigation knows they will be dealt with far more quickly - innocence until proven guilty must be the order of the day.

So why isn't this done now? For many reasons, mostly historical: the fear of being sued, the cosiness of keeping things in-house and the old boy network.

Mistakes will happen, but poor standards need to be separated from misconduct, and there must be an immediate, competent response to suspicion. The days of sitting on a complaint for 12 months then announcing 'no evidence' are over.

Appropriate action is both praiseworthy and appreciated - anything less is ridiculed by the media, causes further loss of public confidence and demoralises that majority of loyal, hardworking, honest and dedicated employees who deserve far better than they are presently receiving.

As for the GMC, when it works it works well, and heaven help us if self-regulation is terminated. A kneejerk reaction is not the answer; the system is a good one but it has become clogged up to an almost unmanageable level. Once that backlog is cleared and the image is dramatically improved we will be able to appreciate the value of such a mechanism.

Peter Jay Chief executive Medicolegal Investigations Ltd Herts