Published: 31/01/2002, Volume II2, No. 5790 Page 23

Health secretary Alan Milburn needs to prove that his commitment to a patientfocused healthcare service is more than rhetoric. Recommend Stephen Bolsin, the anaesthetist who exposed the Bristol baby scandal, for a reward in the next honours list. Also lean on the medical establishment to offer him a position in the NHS worthy of his integrity and dedication to patient safety. He could not get a job in this country after blowing the whistle on dangerous practice. Only then may NHS staff believe protecting patients is more important than protecting colleagues.

The government should reconsider its rejection of Professor Ian Kennedy's valuable recommendation to tape-record consultations. It is nonsense to dismiss this as a threat to trust. Ample research demonstrates patients remember no more than 40 per cent of what they are told; less if cancer is mentioned.

Audio tapes would enable patients to check their recall of professional advice, consider and discuss it with relatives if they so wish before making treatment decisions. Such records could cut staff time wasted on disputes about what information was provided. They might even reduce costly litigation resulting from failures of communication.

Above all, doctors would gain an added incentive to inform patients more fully on proposed treatment.

Roger M Goss Director Patient Concern London