Exclusive NHS managers have warned GPs they could be doorstepped by tabloid journalists hunting for a so-called ‘Super GP’, after a Daily Mail reporter visited a Kent GP’s home and contacted his surgery.
NHS Kent and Medway contacted GP commissioners in east Kent to alert them that a reporter had made ‘at least one approach’ to a local GP and had visited the doctor’s home and surgery.
The approach came earlier this month around the time that the Daily Mail reported that an ‘unidentified GP from Kent’ was believed to receive an ‘astonishing pay packet’ of £770,000 a year, leading to the paper declaring the ‘rise of the Super GP’.
The Daily Mail investigation also reported that ‘a second doctor in Birmingham has been found to be earning an annual sum of £665,000′. However, NHS Birmingham said it was not aware of any GPs having been approached in relation to the story.
There is no suggestion of any breach of the Press Complaints Commission code having taken place. According to the Editor’s Codebook, which outlines the Editor’s Code of Practice, doorstepping does not constitute harassment as long as the journalist does not ‘persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them’.
A spokesperson for NHS Kent and Medway said: ‘We sent an email to the leads of our clinical commissioning groups in east Kent to make them aware that a GP had been approached at home and at his surgery by a journalist from a national newspaper.’
‘This followed the story about GP earnings which resulted from a Freedom of Information request. We offered the GPs support from our communications team if they were similarly approached.’
The email, sent from Glynis Alexander, associate director of communications and engagement at NHS Kent and Medway, stated: ‘You may be aware of a story in the national press about GP earnings, which resulted from a Freedom of Information request.’
‘Since this was published we have been made aware of at least one approach being made to an east Kent GP by a journalist believed to be from the Daily Mail. The journalist visited the GP’s home and contacted his surgery.’
‘This message is just to warn you about this in case you are similarly approached. If you need support from our communications team please feel free to contact me, or refer the journalist to me.’
A spokesperson for Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail, said: ‘My understanding is that we have obviously tried to speak to a doctor. It would seem that we are following the story that we revealed under the Freedom of Information Act and it is right for us to try to talk to anybody who we think may need to comment.’