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Shipman Public Inquiry

Harold Shipman was convicted at Preston crown court in January 2000 of the murder of 15 elderly patients with lethal injections of morphine. A public inquiry was launched in June 2001 to investigate the extent of his crimes, how they went undetected for so long, and what could be done to prevent a repeat of the tragedy. A total of 250 murders of patients were ascribed to Shipman over a 23 year period.  An independent public inquiry into the issues arising from the case of Harold Shipman was conducted after his trial.  This was chaired by Dame Janet Smith and was split into two parts. The report of the first part examined the individual deaths of Shipman’s patients. The second part examined the systems in place that failed to identify his crimes during the course of his medical career. The inquiry team also carried out a separate investigation into all deaths certified by Shipman during his time as a junior doctor at Pontefract General infirmary between 1970 and 1974.

Professional learning:

  • The inquiry has published six reports. The first concluded that Shipman killed at least 215 patients.
  • The second found that his last three victims could have been saved if the police had investigated other patients’ deaths properly.
  • The third report found that by issuing death certificates stating natural causes, Shipman was able to evade investigation by coroners.
  • The fourth report called for stringent controls on the use and stockpiling of controlled drugs such as diamorphine.
  • The fifth report on the regulation and monitoring of GPs criticised the General Medical Council (GMC) for failing in its primary task of looking after patients because it was too involved in protecting doctors.
  • The sixth and final report, published in January 2005, concluded that Shipman had killed 250 patients and may have begun his murderous career at the age of 25, within a year of finishing his medical training.