Exclusive The media regulator has ruled that Mail Online did not breach journalist code by publishing an article claiming that GPs have ‘fuelled’ a crisis in England’s A&E departments.
In June, the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) raised a formal letter of complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) about the ‘misleading’ anti-GP coverage, which garnered 2,395 signatures.
It said that Mail Online’s story breached the ‘accuracy’ clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice (Clause 1).
But following an assessment of the complaint, IPSO today concluded that it ‘does not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code’.
In a response to the DAUK, seen by Pulse, IPSO said that the article did ‘set out the basis for the headline’s summary that the A&E waits were “fueled by GPs”, where several quoted individuals and organisations linked difficulties accessing GPs with longer A&E wait times’.
It added: ‘We did therefore not consider the article to be significantly inaccurate, misleading, or distorted, and considered that the headline was supported by the text of the article.’
IPSO also rejected the DAUK’s complaint that the Mail article ‘focused unreasonably on GPs when all frontline services are stretched’.
It said: ‘Newspapers have the right to choose which pieces of information they publish, as long as this does not lead to a breach of the Code. This means that choosing to focus on GPs did not, in and of itself, represent a breach of the Code where, for the reasons set out above, the source of the concerns was made clear.
‘The article did not go so far as to claim that a lack of GP availability was the only reason for pressure on A&E departments and we noted that the article stated that other public services were under pressure.’
And IPSO added that there was ‘no stand-alone requirement’ for the tabloid to reach out to any GPs or professional medical bodies for comment.
However, the DAUK has a right to appeal the decision to reject the complaint within the next seven days, IPSO said.
It added that it has shared the correspondence with the Mail ‘to make it aware of your concerns’.
The article, which topped the Mail Online website on 8 June, was headlined: ‘Fury at video that lays bare huge A&E waits “being fueled by GPs”: Campaigners say desperate patients are turning to overwhelmed casualty units because they can’t get face-to-face appointments – as video shows nurse announcing 13-hour wait’.
Following its publication, the RCGP issued a statement clarifying that there is ‘no known evidence linking long A&E waits to GP access’.
And Pulse revealed that Mail Online had misrepresented a CQC study in its coverage on the impact of GP access on A&E attendances.
GP-bashing in the media
Last year, Pulse covered extensively how GPs were vilified in the mainstream media for allegedly shirking their patient-consulting responsibilities.
And a Pulse survey detailed how the public perception led to increased levels of abuse against GPs and staff – especially receptionists.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall recently said that the long-standing row over the shift towards remote consulting in GP practices has now ‘settled down’.