Health secretary Alan Milburn has moved to defend the family doctor service after the Shipman murder trial.

Announcing an inquiry into the implications of the 15 killings, Mr Milburn told Parliament that the case 'should not be allowed to erode the bond that exists between doctor and patient'. But he had 'no doubt' that NHS regulations 'have to be strengthened and changed'.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the inquiry would 'consider the role of West Pennine health authority very closely' as well as looking at 'the wider policy implications' of the case.

West Pennine HA has moved to suspend medical adviser Dr Alan Banks, who reviewed the deaths of 14 of Dr Shipman's patients as part of a policy inquiry in early 1998. No action was taken as a result.

The HA has also called for wideranging reforms to GP practice.

See news focus, pages 16-17; comment, page 19; feature, pages 24-26.