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GP wins £22k in libel damages

A GP has won £22,500 in libel damages from a newspaper that wrongly accused him of causing significant harm to a five-year-old girl.

The Mirror was forced to apologise to Dr Mark Greenhalgh in the High Court for an article in September 2001 claiming he had caused significant harm to Vanessa Bull by failing to diagnose a kerion

abscess.

Dr Greenhalgh, a GP in Waltham Abbey, Essex, and a locum at the time of the incident, was completely exonerated by the North Essex health authority following an investigation under the NHS complaints procedure.

The article claimed the misdiagnosis led to the girl having emergency surgery, skin grafting and permanent scarring, 'which would not have happened if the diagnosis had been correct'.

On the two occasions Dr Greenhalgh saw the girl she did not have a lump. Dr Greenhalgh diagnosed a scalp infection and appropriate medication was prescribed.

Later an abscess developed. It was diagnosed at hospital as a scalp abscess and was drained the same day.

An apology appeared in the paper last week admitting statements in the article were wrong: 'We accept the action taken and treatment prescribed by Dr Greenhalgh were correct and this was confirmed by the convenor of the North Essex health authority after a thorough investigation.'

Dr Greenhalgh was understood to be 'upset' the girl's mother had felt it necessary to speak to the press.

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