The press regulator has rejected an appeal lodged by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) over its decision about a GP-bashing article published by Mail Online.
Pulse revealed last month that the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) 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.
The DAUK’s GP Committee announced it would be appealing the decision on the ‘entirely misleading’ article, saying that ‘misinformation has consequences and is wearing down the entire profession’ and ‘must be held to account’.
In a letter sent to DAUK co-chair Dr Ellen Welch, IPSO said that its committee decided that the ‘complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code’ and therefore ‘declined to re-open’ it.
It said: ‘The Committee appreciated that this article was a source of frustration for you and that you considered it to be exacerbating low morale among GPs.
‘However, while the Committee was sorry to hear of these concerns, IPSO can only address concerns linked to the Editors’ Code of Practice.’
The letter added: ‘You provided data which you considered demonstrated that the selection of data in the article was misleading.
‘However, the Committee wished to highlight that newspapers are entitled to publish what they choose, provided the information is accurate.’
It set out that the article was not found to breach the Editors’ Code because:
- DAUK ‘did not dispute that the figures themselves selected for publication were accurate’
- There were ‘no specific findings of inaccuracies in the article’
- The Code ‘does not require that the headlines of news articles are not based on the opinions of individuals; the requirement is that headlines are supported by the text of the article’, as was the case in this instance
IPSO concluded: ‘For this reason, and the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive, the Committee decided that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.’
DAUK GP lead Dr Lizzie Toberty said: ‘This job is making people ill. The negative press narrative of blaming individual GPs for systematic failing is contributing towards burnout and a reduction in full-time GPs. We are only human at the end of the day. We cannot work indefinitely for little to no thanks.
‘We call upon NHSE and all other GP organisations to robustly counteract this narrative or we will continue to witness the demise of modern-day general practice.’
In June, the DAUK raised a formal letter of complaint to 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).
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.