Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Strange when the boot is on the other foot.

If you as a GP work in a part of the world with a local press you will be aware of the fact that most of what it reports is wrong. If you are involved as a doctor with a murder for example or a suicide you may attend the same event as the local press reports and think you had gone to the wrong scene when you read the press version later. Our staff regularly read the local rags to see what Johnnie and Joanna Scrot have been up to, who has died (or sometimes not!), or has been born and the odd kindly thank you for care to patients usually deceased.

A lot of what the local press reports seems to have been trickle fed to them by the local constabulary, Coroner’s and criminal courts. The local Northernshire press seems to delight in local doctor and hospital stories and alot of local doctor and hospital bashing.

Stories are usually along the lines of local doctor missed one in 300 million tumour diagnosis which was finally diagnosed by a Brownie with a first aid badge when the family were at Center Parks on a holiday. A relative is usually so stunned at the Brownie’s ability to do what the doctors did not that they are quoted to have dropped their chips in amazement.

Doctors reported to the GMC are always hot topics but when they are found completely innocent of their alleged injustices while presumed guilty by the Press in headlines leaping out from the pages their acquittal is reported if you can find it towards the back of the paper as a microdot.

Innocence in such circumstances is a bittersweet victory for the damage done by the Press’s reporting lives on in peoples’ minds for a long time and can impact on any doctors so affected lives for a long, long time after.

So while driving home from work in the Ferrari we heard first on the radio and then later on the TV news the assistant editor of the Sun protesting about a witch hunt. Having dealt with colleagues who too had felt the same we felt he may finally understand what it is like to be on the receiving end. We feel this is a bit rich for yes freedom of the press is vital for the provision of information to a wider public be it of good or of ill as long as that information is ACCURATE.

The provision of a free press does not allow it to act as judge, jury and executioner and if anything good comes out of any inquiry at present ongoing it should be that if a newspaper publishes a headline like doctor death killed my relative by stamping on their head when the cause of death was different and involved no medical negligence or culpability that the paper concerned should publish an equally prominent retraction and apology to any individual so wronged. This would be in stark contrast to current press "good" practice of lets assassinate a character and if we get it wrong walk away whistling with our hands in our pockets heads looking skywards as if nothing has happened.

The problem with the British press is that they have got away with so much for so long that they do not like to finally experience what their victims have endured for so long namely the feeling of victimization with little or no redress. Now they are on the receiving end they are able to protest far more and far more loudly than their victims were ever able to do so. For they have friends in high media places. Their victims do not.

Praise be the Party for increasing regulation of doctors within a free society while allowing a free press. Should the same clinical freedom of doctors to act now be extended in the same way by regulation of the Press via the benevolence of the Party?

A General Press Council, annual appraisal and revalidation of “professional” journalists to maintain good press care? Go on you know regulation of professionals makes such good sense . . .

Perhaps the head of a new GPC could be someone who knows a lot about the press like a doctor who has read a newspaper once (the Sun or Daily Star of course) or once watched John Craven's Newsround . . .?