Saturday, March 04, 2006

A spot of bother with the Bristol Evening Post

Shocked to find my face splatted all over the front page of the Bristol Evening Post yesterday.

By Katharine Barker: A North Somerset doctor has been referred to health bosses after a patient complained about his service. Dr Richard Lawson was the subject of an investigation by the...

I felt extremely hurt, and phoned the reporter (0117 934 3333). She denied all responsibility for the decision to put it in, and less responsibility still for the decision of the editor of the Weston edition to put it in the front page. She had not spoken to the complainant, simply published the (confidential) report from the Healthcare Commission (HCC). She gave me the impression that she had spoken to the HCC, but they assured me in a phone call later in the evening that she had not. The person from the HCC was incensed at the BEP, and was supportive to myself.

The trouble is that I cannot comment on the story to give my side, since everything I know is subject to patient confidentiality. I am amazed that it made it to the front page, it is such a pathetic not-story; GP Asked To Move Chairs Around Shock. Such a non-story that I wonder whether there was some kind of political motivation - they mention that I am a Green activist. I also question the professionalism of a reporter who writes pieces calculated to hurt other human beings but does not bother to phone - let alone meet - his/her source to form some kind of opinion of their personality.

Anyway, after slamming a few doors I went off for 90 minutes' street hockey - first outing for months, and came back feeling ALB. Having Jenny and Andrea here overn from italy (Hi Jenny) makes it better too. Then I hear from a newspaper seller in the area that as soon as he heard about it he pulled all the papers off the shelf - I was really moved. And today I get an email from a patient from years ago, saying I was the only doctor she met who had treated her as a human being.

That should be enough to offset 1,000 complaints, whether justified or not, but unfortunately it is the opposite way round. One dissatisfied customer offsets the sense of happiness created by of scores of grateful patients. Complaints cause untold suffering to doctors, and arguably make matters worse by demoralising doctors to a dangerous level while the complaints are pending, and also by creating a defensive culture among medics generally that leads to over-treating and over-investigation of patients.

Doctors are consitstnetly judged to be the profession most trusted by the people, while journalists are down there with politicians as the least trusted. Maybe this has something to do with the anti-doctor stories (and non-stories) that we get in the papers.

Why do we buy newspapers? They are a throwback from the 20th century. They cost us each hundreds of pounds a year, they kill trees, burn energy, leave ink on our fingers, distort the truth, are badly written, are full of inconsequential tittle tattle, take up space, litter the house and the countryside, are mouthpieces for the corporations, and need to be recycled. The only thing they are useful for is lighting the fire.

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