Leveson proposals can protect doctors against media intrusion
By Nick Bostock, 28 November 2012
The Leveson inquiry into press standards is an opportunity to protect doctors against a rising tide of unfair media scrutiny, medico-legal experts believe.
Lord Justice Leveson will report his findings and recommendations on Thursday.
Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society (MPS), says the outcome of the inquiry comes at a time when it feels that the media ‘more and more is giving doctors a hard time’.
A month before the end of 2012, the MPS has received 40% more calls relating to the media than it did in the whole of 2011, Dr Bown says.
Anecdotally, she says there has also been a rise in cases where the first thing GPs know about a complaint from a patient is when they receive a call from the media. ‘This is very concerning for them and their practice,’ she says.
Doctors, says Dr Bown, are ‘relatively easy game’ for the media.
‘Scrutiny from the media often comes at a time when doctors are being investigated - media coverage of the first day of a GMC hearing, for example.
‘Allegations are read out and reported in the press, the doctor clearly cannot respond during the course of the hearing. When the claims are not upheld, it doesn’t make such good news, so the coverage is not balanced.’
This is a factor with most court or crime reporting, but Dr Bown adds: ‘The challenge is that doctors are largely expected to hold public trust and confidence, and there are expectations of the profession, such that serious allegations in the press have greater potential to damage their reputation and professional practice that in many other circumstances, because there is that trust relationship with patients.’
The Leveson inquiry is unlikely to address the concerns of the medical profession specifically, Dr Bown concedes.
But she says: ‘We would like to see a change in culture and leadership. Not necessarily a change in legislation - that often throws up unexpected consequences.
‘We’d want to see a strong change in culture built around strong leadership, and sanctions for those who breach a code of conduct.
‘When a doctor is unable to say anything due to confidentiality, responsible reporting should not take a patient’s allegation at face value, it should take some steps to test them and see if they can be verified.
‘We understand the importance of a free press and the entitlement of patients to express concerns in a public forum.
‘But we hope Leveson may be an opportunity to put some safeguards in place.’
Latest Articles from GP
- Jeremy Hunt backs CQC naming and shaming GP practices
- BMA winter campaign urges patients to self care at home
- New models of general practice needed, NHS England warns
- #WeekInReview - 12 December: CQC naming and shaming, #surgerylive and #AskLordHowe
- First 1,000 CQC visits find 10 practices with 'serious failings'
Latest jobs Jobs web feed
- Salaried GP Millstream Medical Centre Competitive salary will be offered dependent on experience, Central Salisbury
- 2 x Salaried GP Positions, Great Yarmouth, FT & PT, C.£85,000 Merco Circa £85,000 plus benefits, Norfolk, East Anglia
- Clinical Research Physician Synexus Ltd Competitive, UK based sites
- Salaried GP DMC Healthcare Competitive Salary, East Dulwich, South London
- Salaried GP The Medical Centre - Kent Competitive, Maidstone, Kent
- Salaried GP Horden Group Practice Salary will be dependant on experience, Horden, County Durham