Down the years I have formed the general impression that MPs have become more hysterical about less and less. In this regard they have been representing changes in outlook among their constituents, less stoical and more assertive than generations ago, and thus merely doing their jobs as representatives.

So I braced myself with some trepidation for Alan Milburn's statement on the Shipman case. My benchmark is the brief Commons statement made after the Aberfan disaster.

How brief, how restrained, how stoical Welsh MPs had been in the face of what they now realised had been awful complacency by the National Coal Board. In fact, last week's fears were misplaced. The genuine horror of the homicidal GP must have sobered them, and the loudest sound was of stable doors being shut by the GMC and West Pennine health authority. Just as well that someone had the foresight to get the Supporting Doctors, Protecting Patients report, full of belated procedural reforms, in place before the trial.

Even the secretary of state's pledge to consider removing 'Fred' Shipman's pension rights, which seemed faintly absurd at the time, was, on reflection, correct. So was Douglas Hogg, former agriculture minister and a QC, who said that Mrs Shipman's pension entitlement should be considered separately.

He also warned against an 'unfair' second trial and 'scapegoating'.

In all the media excitement, Tory spokesman Dr Liam Fox (who survived the Hague-Portillo reshuffle, you noticed) pointed out that it was 'Dr Shipman who was found guilty, not the medical profession'. He called for a 'legal duty' on HAs to check for previous criminal convictions, for tighter control on 'ash cash' cremation procedures and drug hoarding by GPs. 'It should be an offence not to hand back drugs taken from the relatives of the patient after death, ' the GP-MP told the House.

Fair enough. Dr Fox and Mr Milburn even agreed on the extra need to protect patients in Britain's 3,000 single-handed GP practices. This is harder said than done, they implied, though it was obviously a crucial factor in Hyde, the more so since the apparently blameless Mrs Shipman was the practice secretary. As Mr Milburn kept saying, we must maintain a GP's freedom and flexibility.

Last week's H S J made what I thought was an excellent point, not made elsewhere in the 'Can we ever trust our GPs again?' hysteria, in documenting 170 murders by healthcare staff in 20 years: the scale of Shipman's crime is unusual, less so the perverted impulse in caring professions.

A far more damning case last week, which Lord Laming's inquiry will not address, involves his own profession - social services - which ignored a headmaster's repeated warning that Gary Davis was slowly murdering his stepson. Yet we cannot legislate for every act of madness or evil any more than we can protect MPs' surgeries from deranged swordsmen.

The problem, which Hyde's Labour MP Tom Pendry touched on, also troubled me. As with the Bristol Royal Infirmary case, the affair does not do much to encourage conscientious professional whistle-blowing. All those warning signs (listed in H S J 's editorial) and monitoring procedures were more than offset by a cunning GP whose outstanding local reputation proved an effective shield.

Who can blame the police or HA in pulling back in the face of such a reputation? Of course, if they'd know what the GMC knew they might have probed a little deeper. MPs know that from bitter personal experience of constituency caseloads. The Dunblane school murderer, Thomas Hamilton, was personally known to two - repeat, two - Cabinet ministers.

So why did Shipman do it?

Not money; possibly a form of necrophilia. Few experts agreed, except that the slow morphine-guided death of his own mother at 43, in her armchair like so many of his victims, must have played an important part. In the Independent on Sunday, Blake Morrison, the child of a GP, toyed with the notion that the media hysteria surrounding the case has not been as great as one might have expected, not just because the killer was a doctor killing within 'a marginalised social group' - old ladies.

He concluded that their gentle deaths - 'good deaths' as the trade puts it - may have eased the outrage. As for Shipman's motive: to punish those who trusted him.