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Doc Dave’s Blog

BRADSHAW’S SMEARS CONTINUE

08-07-2008

As The Stirrer reported last week, Birmingham doctor David Nicholl has complained to the BBC about unchallenged smears made by Ben Bradshaw, the Health Minister. Bradshaw claims GP’s are conspiring to stop patients “shopping around”.

The Stirrer and others recently reported the controversy surrounding Ben Bradshaw’s comments regarding allegations of GPs having “gentleman’s agreements” between different GP practices and also that one practice only had 2 patients.

My concern regarding this story is that the BBC accepted the Minister’s words largely unchallenged without looking into the evidence.

The BBC journalist, Nick Triggle, who wrote the BBC website piece which led to my complaint replied, “We stand by the story. In the website piece we point out that he was unable to say how widespread the problem was. He was challenged by the BBC about what evidence he had, but explained by the very nature gentleman's agreements are not formal or written down.

"The government did say that they had received reports from primary care trusts about the issue. In particular, they had been told that doctors were saying their lists were full when they were not officially classed as closed.

"This, while obviously not categorical, was enough for the editors to feel the BBC was justified in running the story."

The BBC were unable to answer why they had not challenged Bradshaw to name the GP practice with 2 patients, nor would they say whether they would establish whether this practice actually exists. Although I don’t have the answer to this one, my enquiries suggest that if this GP practice exists, it is in Kent and is very atypical and so his comments were very misleading.

On Radio 4’s “Any Questions” this week, Mr Bradshaw stated that “I had more emails than I have ever had on any other issue from members of the public” He was unable to be more specific apart from saying it was “more than 10”. Mr Bradshaw was not specific as to whether the messages were supportive or critical of his comments.

In the 3 days since the Stirrer reported my complaint regarding the Today programme, I can report I have had support from more doctors via the Doctors.net website than on any other issue- 240 in less than 3 days.

One GP, who contacted me, said “There is a practice with 2 patients, it is the remnant of a service set up in a specialist nursing home in Kent - you might realise that this is by no means a normal GP practice, I would regard it more as a contractual way of providing primary care to a disadvantaged group of patients.

"Other small practices are those that are for violent patients - usually PCT run. Again the term 'GP practice' is used but again the service is very different from the regular GP one.

"The final group is the small remote communities of this country. There is a practice with around 60 patients on a Scottish Island that gets cut off in bad weather. So there are some small practices and for very good reasons, usually set up and run by PCTs - who are responsible for providing every person in this country with a primary care service.

"Mr Bradshaw has demonstrated that he does not have a clue how primary care is run in this country - which is a tadge worrying as he is in charge of it!"

The question remains, not that the BBC were right to run the story, but where they right to run it with such flimsy evidence that needed more substantive reporting. Why have they not yet tracked down the elusive 2 patient GP practice to find out the facts, Sounds like Kent would be a good place to start looking. Would the late Charles Wheeler have run this story ‘as is’? I doubt it very much.

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