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Editor's plea for GP inquiry to go public

An editor is challenging a Department of Health decision to keep the media out of an inquiry into a disgraced doctor.

The Kentish Express is providing evidence for the judicial review after it found out that the Government wants to restrict the inquiry’s coverage to interviews with the GP’s victims away from the hearing – and after they have given evidence.

The Kentish Express was asked to get involved after it launched a campaign this summer to secure an open investigation into the unorthodox and humiliating practices of former Folkestone GP Clifford Ayling.

Ayling was jailed in December for indecently assaulting some of his female patients.

And although Health Secretary Alan Milburn wants to examine NHS failings in the case, he also wants the media excluded and suggested victims could report back to journalists about the proceedings.

A judicial review to decide whether the hearing can be held in the presence of the press will be opened on February 5.

This week the Kentish Express’s affidavit to the judicial review by editor Brian Lewis was submitted.

  • Editor Brian Lewis
    signs the affidavit
  • In it he explained that as well-meaning as the victims would be, they could not possibly offer balanced and objective accounts for waiting reporters outside the inquiry doors.

    His statement also criticised a claim by chief medical officer Liam Donaldson that a public inquiry would discourage NHS staff from being frank about any mistakes.

    The Kent Messenger Group title, which has editions in Ashford, Tenterden,Folkestone and Hythe and the Romney Marsh, has carried a series of special reports on the Ayling case by reporter Jo Robertson.

    She has examined the sentence imposed, and the fact Ayling was struck off the medical register, together with in-depth interviews with some of victims about the effect he has had on their lives.

    Many have come forward only after reading the experiences of fellow victims in the Kentish Express, another important reason given for holding a public inquiry – as the full extent of the doctor’s abuse is still unknown.

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