PUBLIC SECTOR: Clinical standards bodies crank up lobbying efforts

Two watchdogs for clinical standards have ramped up their public affairs work ahead of the release of findings from the public inquiry into the Harold Shipman case.

The National Clinical Assessment Authority and the General Medical Council have put new lobbying arms in place weeks before the expected publication of the preliminary findings.

The Department of Health and MPs are target groups for both bodies as they assess the findings' impact on future legislation and political opinion.

The NCAA, the body set up one year ago in the aftermath of the original Shipman trial to investigate the performance of individual doctors, has hired AS Biss & Co as its first external public affairs adviser.

NCAA external relations manager Kate Wynne said the organisation had decided to appoint external support for the first time after a review of its public affairs needs.

She said: 'We felt it was practical to have experts in-house and an agency on a watching brief.'

She added it was also crucial that the body forms better links with regional health groups in its attempts to monitor the work of GPs at a local level.

Founder Adele Biss oversees the agency's account work.

The GMC has also hired external public affairs support, appointing Hill & Knowlton on an issues management and corporate PR remit.

A GMC spokesperson said the appointment was crucial for its work with the Government to toughen up vetting and disciplinary procedures for GPs.

The GMC has been criticised for its handling of the Shipman case, failing to alert both the local health authority and the police that he had a conviction for obtaining drugs by deception and forgery in 1976.

The body is understood to be preparing a corporate campaign to highlight changes in the GMC.

The Shipman inquiry involves analysis of a clinical audit of Shipman's medical practice, conducted by the chief medical officer Professor Liam Donaldson last year. As many as 500 deaths are being investigated.

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